Skip to Content

Sepsis in Children


  • Sepsis (SEP-sis) occurs when the body reacts to infection, causing widespread inflammation (swelling) and clotting in small blood vessels. This may then lead to septic shock (poor blood flow) and organ failure (loss of function). Any kind of infection anywhere in your child's body may cause sepsis. The infection may be due to different types of germs, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Children of any age can develop sepsis, but it is more common in children with a weak immune system. Children who are less than two years of age, were born prematurely, or who have congenital problems have a higher risk for sepsis.
  • Signs and symptoms of sepsis in children may include fever or low body temperature, fast heartbeat, irritability, and sleepiness. Your child may eat or suck poorly, and pass little to no urine. Different blood tests, cultures, a chest x-ray, and lumbar puncture may help diagnose sepsis. Treatments include medicines to fight the germ-causing infection and supportive measures. Supportive measures may include hydration (fluids), nutritional therapy, and respirators. With immediate treatment, such as medicine, your child may make a complete recovery.



  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

Home care:

  • Do not let anyone smoke around your child. Breathing in cigarette smoke can harm your child's body in many ways. Your child is more likely to get certain types of infections if he breathes in cigarette smoke. Being around cigarette smoke can also affect your child's lungs and cause breathing problems. Do not let anyone smoke inside your home. If you smoke, you should quit. Quitting smoking will improve your health and the health of those around you. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.
  • Keep your child away from people who have colds and the flu. Also try to keep your child away from large groups of people while he is recovering from surgery. This decreases your child's chance of getting sick or getting an infection.
  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. This will help prevent the spread of germs. Encourage everyone in your house to wash their hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom. Also wash hands after changing diapers and before preparing or eating food.
  • Your child may need more rest than he realizes while he heals. Quiet play will keep your child safely busy so he does not become restless and risk injuring himself. Have your child read or draw quietly. Follow instructions for how much rest your child should get while he heals.


  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • Your child is coughing hard or coughing up blood.
  • You have any questions or concerns about your child's condition, treatment, or care.


  • Your child has a high-pitched cry.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or his lips and fingernails are pale or turning blue in color.
  • Your child is not able to eat, suck, or drink, or is urinating less or not at all.
  • Your child looks very tired or weak, is more fussy or sleeping more than usual.
  • Your child passes out or has a seizure (convulsion).
  • Your child's stool or vomit (throw up) has blood in it.
  • Your child's symptoms do not improve or are getting worse.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Sepsis in Children (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex