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Sepsis in Children


Sepsis happens when an infection spreads and causes your child's body to react strongly to germs. Your child's defense system normally releases chemicals to fight off infection at the infected area. When infection spreads, chemicals are released throughout your child's body. The chemicals cause inflammation and clotting in small blood vessels. The clots are often hard to control. Inflammation and clotting decrease blood flow and oxygen to your child's organs. This may cause your child's organs to stop working correctly. Sepsis is a life-threatening emergency.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing, or his or her lips and fingernails are pale or turning blue.
  • Your child passes out or has a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child is coughing hard or coughing up blood.
  • Your child has a high-pitched cry.
  • Your child's bowel movement or vomit has blood in it.
  • Your child looks very tired or weak, or is more fussy or sleeping more than usual.
  • Your child is not able to eat, suck, or drink, or is urinating less or not at all.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's symptoms return.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Medicines help treat an infection or decrease your child's symptoms.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent infection:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Use soap and water. Have your child wash his or her hands after using the bathroom, coughing, or sneezing. Wash your and your child's hands before you prepare or eat food. Carry hand sanitizer with you. You can use it to clean your and your child's hands when there is no soap and water available.
  • Ask about vaccines. Vaccines can decrease your child's risk for certain infections, such as the flu or pneumonia.
  • Avoid the spread of germs. Keep your child home from school or daycare if others are sick. Try to stay away from people who have a cold or the flu. If your child is sick, stay away from others as much as possible.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Sepsis in Children (Discharge Care)

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IBM Watson Micromedex Guides (External)

Further information

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