Written by

Leanne Devine - Associate & Birth Injury Solicitor

Sepsis can affect anyone at any time in their life, however children, particularly premature babies and infants can be more susceptible to developing sepsis, and because of that, it is important for parents to know the signs and symptoms to be aware of and how to respond quickly in order for the child to receive appropriate care. Sepsis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition and it can occur in children of all ages. If your child has sepsis, it will require prompt recognition and treatment in order to improve the chances of a positive outcome. This guide will provide an overview of sepsis in children, including how to prevent it, the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options. 


What is sepsis? 

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s immune system is responding to an infection. According to the NHS, “Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection.” Sepsis occurs when your immune system has overreacted to an infection and then it starts to damage your body’s own tissues and organs, this can happen when you are fighting any kind of infection. Sepsis can also be known as septicaemia or blood poisoning. Sepsis can be a life changing disease and affects many children and adults in the UK: 

  • 2,000 children each year develop sepsis in the UK 
  • 40% of all sepsis survivors suffer permanent, life-changing after effects
  • 5 people die with sepsis every hour in the UK 


Preventing sepsis

Sepsis can be difficult to identify and unfortunately, it is not possible to stop it. However, taking steps to stop an infection will reduce the chance of your child developing the sepsis, below are some steps that you can take: 

  • Encourage your child to regularly wash their hands well – this will prevent the introduction of germs into the body
  • Wash any cuts or grazes
  • Get vaccines 
  • If your child gets sick and is not getting better, make sure to call a Doctor 
  • If your child has been prescribed antibiotics, make sure to give all doses exactly as directed

Preventing sepsis in children is crucial to ensure their overall health, and while sepsis can occur as a result of infections that are difficult to prevent, by following the steps above, you are able to reduce the risk of your child developing sepsis, and also ensuring that they receive timely and appropriate treatment if they do become ill. 


Signs and symptoms of sepsis 

Sepsis can be difficult to detect as the symptoms are very common in other childhood illnesses such as colds. However, it is important to trust your instincts – parents know their children and if your child seems sicker than usual or something doesn’t feel right, you should seek emergency medical care straight away. 

According to the NHS, symptoms of sepsis in babies and young children can include: 

  • Blue, grey, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue 
  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it 
  • Difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast 
  • A weak, high-pitched cry that is different from their normal cry 
  • Not responding like they usually do 
  • Not interested in feeding 
  • Being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake 

If your child has any of these symptoms of sepsis, it is important to call 999 or go to A&E immediately. If you suspect sepsis, blood and urine tests, along with x-rays and/ or CT scans can be carried out to check for any infection. There is no specific test that can tell if a patient has sepsis, but the medical team should put together clues, symptoms, a physical exam and test results to make a sepsis diagnosis. 


What causes sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by an infection in the body and this infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites and can originate from any part of the body. 

When the body detects any presence of infection, it will release chemicals to fight off the pathogen. Usually those chemicals will stay in the location of the infection, however during sepsis, the chemicals can get into the bloodstream and spread, this will then damage the body’s organs which can then become life-threatening. The severity of sepsis can depend on many different factors including the type of infection, the overall health of your child, and the timeliness and effectiveness of the treatment. 


How do you treat sepsis? 

Sepsis can be treated with antibiotics, but it will always require a stay in hospital so that doctors can closely monitor the patient for any changes to their symptoms. You should receive antibiotics within 1 hour of arriving at the hospital if you have sepsis because if your sepsis is not treated early, it can potentially turn into septic shock and cause your organs to fail which is life threatening. Other treatments can include:

  • Treatment in an intensive care unit 
  • A ventilator to help with breathing 
  • Surgery to remove infections 



Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur in children of all ages and it is caused by an infection that causes your immune system to overreact. The symptoms of sepsis in children can vary, but common symptoms include rapid breathing, looking pale, and having a rash that doesn’t fade. It is important that parents understand these symptoms because prompt recognition and treatment are essential in order to improve the chances of a positive outcome for your child. If you suspect that your child has sepsis, it is important that you seek immediate medical care. 

Overall, sepsis is a serious condition that requires prompt recognition and treatment and by taking preventative measures and getting medical care as soon as your child shows any sign of illness, you are able to minimise the risk of sepsis and ensure the best possible outcome for your child. 


Contact Patient Claim Line

If your child has unfortunately suffered from sepsis negligence and you feel as though you were not offered reasonable care and this has led to their condition becoming worse, you may be entitled to legal support and compensation. At Patient Claim Line, our medical negligence experts will be able to guide you through your claims process on a no win no fee basis, so if you feel as though your child has suffered any medical negligence in relation to their sepsis condition, get in touch with one of our specialist negligence lawyers to find out more.

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