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Sepsis In Babies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, Long Term Effects

About Sepsis In Babies

Sepsis is an extremely serious medical condition and poses potential threat to the life of a person. It is a condition in which the immune system of the body starts overreacting to an ongoing infection. As a result of this, vital organs and tissues of the body get damaged. As dangerous is sepsis to adults, it is equally dangerous for babies. Sepsis in Babies is also termed as Pediatric Sepsis. It is defined as a collection of disorders that develop as a result of any bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, and at times the toxic products of these organisms.[1,2,3]

Sepsis is believed to be one of the leading causes of child fatalities all over the world. When speaking about United States, studies estimate that every year about 70,000 children are admitted to the hospital for sepsis with a fatality rate of about 25% which speaks volumes about the seriousness of this disease. Despite all this, it has been only recently that Pediatric Sepsis has been recognized as a condition that is separate from adult sepsis. Even the definition of pediatric sepsis is in an evolutionary stage as there is significant difference between the clinical and research based definition of this condition. This is the reason why many research findings about this condition has still not been able to be applied in clinical practice.[1,2,3]

Despite the seriousness of the condition and high mortality rate, early detection and treatment has shown to improve the overall outcomes significantly. However, poor adherence to instructions has been observed which impacts the overall prognosis and improved outcomes have been noted only in cases where there has been strict implementation of protocols.[1,2,3]

Treatment for pediatric sepsis is more or less taken up from that of adult sepsis. However, as there is quite a bit of difference between sepsis in babies and adults more pinpointed treatment approach needs to be developed for improved outcomes in cases of pediatric sepsis.[1,2,3]

What Causes Sepsis In Babies?

What Causes Sepsis In Babies?

The Center for Disease Control states that majority of cases of sepsis in babies are as a result of a bacterial infection even though viral, fungal, or even parasitic causes also play a role. A case report from 2016 mentions majority of the cases of sepsis in babies are due to a respiratory tract infection or a blood infection. Children under the age of 1 are in the extremely high risk zone when it comes to sepsis. This is more so if the baby is premature or the mother had an infection while pregnant.[2,3]

Additionally, if a child is born with an underlying medical condition that further weakens the developing immune system also makes the baby vulnerable to a condition like sepsis.[2,3]

What are the Symptoms of Sepsis In Babies?

The symptoms of sepsis are variable and include tachycardia, abnormally high respiratory rate, difficulty breathing, vomiting, fever, irritable mood, skin paleness, and low body temperature. Shivering is also seen in some babies when they have sepsis. Some of the symptoms may be observed in a baby but it may not be from sepsis. However, it is mandatory for the parents or caregivers to take the child to the nearest emergency room if they notice any or most of the symptoms mentioned above for a thorough checkup.[3]

How is Sepsis In Babies Treated?

The treatment for sepsis in babies begins with administration of IV antibiotics to ward off the infection. This should be done immediately upon arrival to the emergency room. Further treatments will then be given to stabilize the baby and prevent any further complications. These treatments include administration of IV electrolytes, medications to control the heart rate and blood pressure. If the baby is having difficulty breathing then a ventilator may need to be used till the breathing stabilizes.[3]

Medications will also be given to keep the baby calm during treatment. It may take several weeks of hospitalization for a baby to completely recover from sepsis. ICU admission may also be required in severe cases of sepsis in babies.[3]

What Are The Long Term Effects Of Sepsis In Babies?

As stated, early detection and treatment of sepsis in babies is vital for the overall prognosis. Recovery from sepsis takes time and despite this the child may have some behavioral changes which include tiredness and easy fatigue, problems with feeding, difficulty sleeping. The child will also be very fussy and irritable.[3]

Some children after recovering from sepsis in the long term may have lack of appetite, events of nightmares, and frequent changes in mood. These children may fall sick every now and then. A study done in 2019 on pediatric sepsis mentioned that approximately 25% of children experience a decrease in health related quality of life after recovering from sepsis in the long term.[3]

Can Sepsis In Babies Be Prevented?

The best and the only way to prevent sepsis in babies is to prevent them from all infections. However, this is something that is next to impossible but strategies can definitely be employed by parents and caregivers to minimize the risk. This can be done by ensuring that the environment around the child is hygienic and clean. Any open wounds or sores should be cleaned and sterile bandages applied till the time they heal completely [3].

It is also imperative for parents and caregivers to make sure that if the child has an underlying medical condition then it should be treated promptly, especially if the condition increases the child of having infections. Being up to date on all vaccinations is also important to prevent the child from getting any infections. Providing the baby with the best nutrition as directed by a nutritionist is important so that the immune system of the baby is healthy and the risk of infections is less.[3]

In conclusion, Sepsis in Babies is an emergent medical condition and requires the parents or the caregivers to take the baby to the nearest emergency room. Sepsis is the leading cause of fatality in children all over the world including the United States where around 70,000 babies are admitted to the hospital every year due to sepsis.[1,2,3]

If sepsis is left untreated, complications develop very quickly, especially in babies under one year of age as their immune system is still in the developing stage. The chances of a positive outcome are significantly improved if prompt treatment is given and treatment protocols are followed.[1,2,3]

It may take a few weeks for a baby to recover from sepsis. There may be some long term effects of the condition in some babies that have been illustrated above. The bottom line however is that a child needs to be protected from infections especially if they are immune compromised to prevent them from getting sepsis.[1,2,3]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 21, 2021

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