Could it be sepsis?

September 13 is World Sepsis Day and we are encouraging the SCHN community to ask – could it be sepsis?

Sepsis is a term for a syndrome involving bacteria replicating in the blood stream and associated with organ damage, especially the lungs or kidneys.

It often occurs when children have serious underlying infections such as pneumonia, meningitis or kidney disease.

Young children are more susceptible to sepsis than adults because their protective immune systems are developing and unready to fight foreign invading bacteria.

The first signs of sepsis are often confusion and disorientation, breathlessness, shivering and muscle soreness.

If a child is unwell with an infection, look out for a very high or very low temperature, very fast breathing, confusion, a “fit” or convulsion, mottled skin, lethargy, not feeding, and repeated vomiting as alert symptoms.

In hospital, we tend to see more serious systemic illnesses, some in children that have compromised immune conditions.

In these children infections can be difficult to treat and sometimes means the child continues to be vulnerable to infections afterwards.

This is a concept Carolina and Jose know all too well – they noticed their son Alejandro’s hands were cold and he was breathing fast - Carolina rushed her son to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Just hours later, they found themselves in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), wondering if their little boy would make it through the night.

José remembers rushing to meet his wife at the Hospital: “There were all these machines beeping and alarms going off. Carolina walked out of the room shaking her head and collapsed on the floor.”

Alejandro’s initial fever was due to a streptococcus infection in his lungs. He then developed sepsis, and all his organs started demanding blood to deal with it.

Alejandro spent months in and out of our PICU fighting not only sepsis but a list of other infections, however eventually he made it home.

He is as happy and healthy as any parent could wish for. Luckily there are no signs of brain damage – and he’s growing stronger every day.

If you suspect sepsis in your child seek professional medical advice immediately.