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Health Information For Parents
Sepsis is a medical emergency that needs treatment right away. When the body gets an infection, the immune system fights it. Sepsis happens when the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the body’s own organs and tissues. This can happen when fighting any kind of infection.
Sepsis can damage the kidneys, lungs, brain, and heart, and can even cause death. By knowing the signs of sepsis, parents can get their children medical attention early, which can help in the treatment.
Sepsis can be very hard to identify. Many of its signs are also common in routine childhood illness. But trust your instincts. If your child seems sicker than usual or something just doesn’t seem right, call the doctor or get emergency medical care immediately.
Having one of these signs alone doesn’t mean a child has sepsis. But when a few of these things happen together, that’s a clue that sepsis is possible:
Sepsis starts with an infection caused by a germ. Bacteria,
, and parasites all can cause sepsis.
When the body has an infection, it makes chemicals to fight it. Usually those chemicals stay in the location of the infection. During sepsis, the chemicals get into the bloodstream and spread, damaging the body’s organs.
Sepsis can affect people of any age. It’s more common in those who have a higher chance of getting an infection in the first place, such as:
No specific test can tell for sure that a patient has sepsis. The medical team puts together clues from the patient’s
, symptoms, a physical exam, and tests to make a sepsis diagnosis.
Tests done can include:
The tests can look for an infection that could be causing sepsis and to check for organ damage.
Sepsis is treated in the hospital, where doctors can closely watch the patient. Some kids must be in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for extra monitoring and treatment.
Monitors like a cardiorespiratory monitor and pulse oximetry watch the heart and breathing. Doctors watch the child’s blood pressure closely. Sometimes a special monitor, called an arterial line (or a-line for short), measures blood pressure constantly from inside the arteries.
Antibiotics to fight the infection are given through an
(IV) line, which is a small tube put into a vein. Usually, doctors start
right away — even before the diagnosis of sepsis is proven.
Kids also will get fluids through the IV and, if needed, blood pressure medicines called vasopressors to keep the heart working well. Some kids with sepsis might need extra blood or to get some parts of blood through the IV. This is called a transfusion and can help the blood make clots or carry oxygen better.
Sometimes, a child needs a special IV called a central line. This bigger IV line goes into a larger vein that can carry the needed medicines and fluids faster.
Kids with sepsis could need help breathing. If so, doctors give oxygen or might place a breathing tube and use a ventilator (a machine that helps with breathing). If the heart and lungs are too sick to get enough oxygen to the body, the medical team may use a treatment called ECMO where a machine takes over for the heart and lungs so the body can heal.
Kids with sepsis might have kidney damage and stop making urine (pee). Doctors use
to clean the blood when the kidneys can’t do that.
It’s not always possible to prevent sepsis. But preventing infections can help lower the chances of sepsis.
Here are four ways you can help protect your kids from infection:
or long-term IV line), follow the doctor’s directions for cleaning and using it.
If your child is sick and is not getting better, call your doctor or get medical care. If your child is prescribed antibiotics, give all doses exactly as directed.
Most important: If your child seems sicker than normal to you, or is being treated for an infection that’s not getting better or gets worse, trust your gut and call the doctor or get medical help right away. Ask the doctor, “Could it be sepsis?”
Learn what a NICU visit will be like for your little one, what you can do to help, and how to find support for yourself.
Women who have this common but potentially dangerous bacteria while pregnant receive antibiotics during labor to avoid passing the bacteria onto their babies.
By the time you hold your new baby for the first time, you’ve probably chosen your little one’s doctor. Learn about your newborn’s medical care.
Germs are the microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause disease.
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food. It mostly affects pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Here’s how to protect your family.
Fevers happen when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above normal. This is often the body’s way of fighting infections.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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