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Is your child at risk of sepsis?

April 6, 2017

Tragic stories of children losing their lives to sepsis seem to be constantly in the news at the moment. These deaths are particularly sad as if the condition had been treated in time those children should have made a full recovery.

Whilst quite rare, the condition still affects a lot of people. According to The UK Sepsis Trust, every year in the UK there are 150,000 people affected by sepsis, of which around 10,000 are children. Sadly, of the 150,000 people affected, around 44,000 people die.

What exactly is sepsis?

Sepsis is a condition resulting from a complication of an infection. Normally your immune system tries to keep an infection in one place while it deals with it and to do this it will causes nearby tissues to swell.

However, while this inflammation is helpful when localised, if the infection is severe this inflammation can spread throughout the body with serious consequences.

Not only can it damage tissue, it can also interrupt blood flow. This can lead to a drop in blood pressure, stopping oxygen from reaching tissues and vital organs. If not treated this can lead to organ failure and death.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

A child with sepsis can demonstrate a range of symptoms. Children under 5 years of age may go off food, vomit continuously and not wee for more than 12 hours. You might also notice them breathing very quickly or their skin turning mottled, bluish or pale.

They may also be unusually cold to the touch or particularly sluggish and difficult to wake.

More obvious symptoms also include convulsions or fits. In some cases, you may even find that they have a rash that does not fade when you press it.

When is a child likely to develop sepsis?

According to The Sepsis UK Trust, people are most likely to have sepsis after they have had a chest or water infection, an issue in the abdomen such as a burst ulcer, or a cut or bite on the skin.

NHS Choices also mentions other infections associated with sepsis, including meningitis, pneumonia, flu and infections following surgery.

What should you do if you think your child has sepsis?

If you think your child might have sepsis you should seek medical advice straight away. If your GP thinks your child is showing early symptoms they will refer them to hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

Of course, if you are concerned that your child is very ill already, then don’t hesitate to take them to hospital straight away, as severe sepsis or septic shock is a medical emergency and needs to be dealt with quickly.

In fact, recent guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says that anyone at risk of sepsis should be seen by senior hospital staff and given antibiotics and fluids within an hour.

This guidance comes after an inquiry in 2015 found that 40% of patients with sepsis who arrived in Accident & Emergency had not been reviewed by senior doctors quickly enough.

Hopefully, this article has gone some way to helping you understand the dangers of sepsis.

However, nothing could be more powerful than this video from Melissa Mead, whose son William sadly died of sepsis just a few days after his first birthday. Please click here to view – then spread the word!