Spotting Sepsis In Children: Signs, Causes And How To Treat It

When your body’s immune system starts working more than it should, you are at a high risk of contracting sepsis. The condition is sometimes also referred to as septicaemia.

When your body’s immune system goes into an overdrive to ward off some outer infection, a huge number of chemicals are released naturally in your blood stream. As a result, it creates a lot of inflammation that can cause damage to various organs. It can also often lead to blood clotting which reduces the amount of blood that flows to the various internal organs as well as to the limbs.

When this happens, the organs and limbs fail to receive the adequate amount of oxygen and nutrients. As a result, the organs can get damaged and you may suffer organ failure.

In its worst stage, sepsis causes severe drop in the level of blood pressure. This situation is also referred to by doctors as septic shock. During septic shock, many organs can fail, including liver, lungs and kidneys. This is an extremely dangerous and life threatening situation.

While sepsis can affect anyone at any point of time, young children are especially prone to the condition. In most cases, premature babies and infants are at the highest risk of contracting sepsis.

Here are some of the most common causes that could lead to sepsis in children:

  • Premature birth, where the baby is born before the 37th week, or if the baby is born more than 24 hours after the water bag of the mother has broken.
  • Weak immune system
  • The baby does not get proper nutrition or is malnourished
  • Has any ongoing condition such as urinary tract infection, heart problems or defects, a large burn wound or any types of multiple wounds or injuries
  • Is less than 2 years of age or is a new born
  • Has to frequently visit the hospital where may come in contact with patients who have some or other type of contagious disease
  • Has to stay in the hospital for a considerable amount of time and especially in the ICU
  • Is recuperating in the hospital after any type of surgery
  • Has to take medicines that can reduce the body’s natural immunity and ability to fight off infections

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of sepsis that are found in children:

  • Not able to eat or drink properly and may end up vomiting after eating or drinking something
  • Has a fever or the body temperature suddenly dips very low (a condition known as hypothermia)
  • Gets seizures
  • Urinates very less or barely urinates at all. Some children completely stop passing urine
  • Breathing becomes fast and heavy
  • Has difficulty in breathing
  • Heart rate goes very fast or very slow
  • Is always weak and out of energy, feels dizzy, wants to sleep all the time or is drowsy, finds it difficult to wake up from sleep, is cranky

Once you speak to your child’s doctor about the possibility of sepsis, here are some of the diagnosis methods the doctor might suggest:

  • Blood tests
    This will help the doctor find out how your child’s body is working overall.
  • X-ray of the chest
    The chest x-ray will give the doctor a look into your child’s lung and heart area and show if there is any congestion or everything is clear. It will also help to monitor and find out any present health issue and treat the same to reduce the risk of sepsis.
  • Urine sample
    The urine sample will help the doctor look for any infection.
  • Blood gases
    Also known as arterial blood gases (ABGs), this is done if your child difficulty in breathing.
  • Culture
    A culture is a type of test that the doctor will use to grow and then identify the type of germ that is causing sepsis in your child. The doctor will do this with the help of your child’s urine, blood or fluid collected from the spinal cord or brain. In some cases, the doctor will also take a sample from an infected wound.
  • Lumbar puncture
    Also known as a spinal tap, it is a procedure in which the doctor will insert a small needle in your child’s lower back to extract some fluid for testing. It is used to look for any bleeding that could take place around the spinal cord or brain area and will also show if there is any type of infection present.

Sepsis is a serious and life-threatening condition and the child is mostly kept in an intensive care unit (ICU) or a critical care unit (CCU). In some cases, the doctors may put the child on antibiotics to start treating the infection before a more detailed treatment plan is started.

  • If your child often suffers from infections in the lungs or skin or has recurrent sinus problems, get it tested and ask the doctor about a sepsis check.
  • Make sure your child gets all the required vaccination that will help protect against bacterial and viral infections.
  • Do not let your child get exposed to people who are unwell or have some type of contagious infection.
  • In case your child has weak immunity, speak to the doctor to know how you can improve the same.
  • Wash your child’s hands regularly.

If diagnosed and treated on time, sepsis can definitely be treated. Make sure you spot the signs and inform your child’s doctor immediately.

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