Severe Infections and Sepsis: What You Need to Know

What is Sepsis?

  • Sepsis is a severe infection sometimes called “blood poisoning”.  It occurs when the body’s response to an infection affects its own tissues and organs.
  • Sepsis is considered a medical emergency.  It requires prompt treatment.  The goal is to recognize it early to prevent complications.
  • Many different types of germs or “bugs” can cause sepsis including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
  • Sepsis can affect anyone, although some people are at greater risk than others.  They include people who are:
    • Very young
    • Have an illness that affects the immune system
    • Are taking medication to treat cancer
    • Have had an organ transplant and are taking anti-rejection medications
    • Have a chronic illness
    • Are on long-term steroids
  • In children the signs and symptoms of sepsis can present quickly and deterioration can happen rapidly.
  • Sepsis is difficult to recognize, as it can have similar symptoms to other illnesses.  More than one of the following symptoms listed below may be concerning and you should alert your health care provider or bring your child to the nearest emergency department.
  • Preventing infection is one of the best ways of preventing sepsis.  Frequent hand hygiene is an easy way to stop the spread of germs!

How is Sepsis Detected and Treated?

Signs and Symptoms:  

  • Early signs and symptoms may include a combination of the following:
  • Rapid and or difficulty breathingRapid heart rate
  • Feeling very hot (a fever of 39°) or Feeling very cold
  • Very Irritable and difficulty settling
  • Increased crying for infants
  • Drowsiness or Sleepy and difficult to wake
  • Refusing drinks/food for a number of hours
  • Poor or reduced feeding in infants
  • Poor urine output or fewer wet diapers
  • A purple rash and or bruising
  • A previous injury like a fall or scrape and you see the area is red, swollen, and hot to touch


Sepsis is detected by observing heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, urine output and level of consciousness. Laboratory tests may be done to identify the cause of infection.


  • Medications such as antibiotics are prescribed by your doctor based on the type of bug causing the infection.
  • The medication is injected into a vein by intravenous (IV) to get into the blood system quickly.
  • Extra fluids are also given to help keep the blood pressure from being dangerously low.
  •  Extra fluids are given directly into the vein by an IV drip.
  • A child/infant with severe sepsis may require close monitoring and specialized medications.  This may involve being transferred to an intensive care unit, where there are high levels of specialized nursing and medical care.


Recovery from sepsis varies for each patient. 

Please sign the World Sepsis Day Declaration

Ann WatkinsComment