Signs of Sepsis

Back when Benjamin was three weeks old, he contracted a severe water infection which led to sepsis. He was really really poorly for a while – his body had started to go into septic shock – and if it hadn’t been for the wonderful efforts of the NHS, he wouldn’t be bouncing around the house like the little fruitloop that he is.

Lots of people haven’t heard of it, or don’t recognise any of the symptoms. I know I didn’t before Ben was ill. It’s had a lot of coverage in the media in recent months which I am so glad about and people are beginning to understand just how serious it can be.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a complication of an infection. It’s more likely to occur if you have already been in hospital, have had surgery or have had a catheter fitted (urinary tract infections, like the one Ben had, is one of the most common starting infections for sepsis). It is an infection of the blood, where germs or toxins produced by the infection leave the original site and enter the bloodstream.

Who is at risk from sepsis?

Everyone is at risk of sepsis – men and women, old and young, the healthy and the ill. Like most infections, the elderly, the very young and anyone with a weakened immune system are more at risk, but everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms and what to do if they notice someone becoming unwell.

Symptoms of sepsis in babies and children

Looking mottled or pale

  • Lethargic or difficult to rouse
  • Cold
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rashes that do not fade when pressed
  • High temperature above 38º or low temperature below 36°
  • Grunting in between breaths
  • Dehydration (check to see how wet nappies are)
  • No interest in feeding
  • Bulging soft spot on baby’s head
  • Sunken eyes
  • Stiff neck

Looking back, Benjamin had quite a few of these symptoms. He was a very quiet, sleepy baby which at the time I thought was a good thing. He was also dehydrated – his nappy was almost dry in the morning, and what little urine there was was a dark colour. I had been struggling to get milk into him, and he was very yellow and jaundiced, which was why we got him straight to the walk-in centre and then on to the hospital. Looking back on a photo that I took on the way to the walk-in centre, I can see just how poorly he looks – look at those sunken eyes!

The symptoms of sepsis

If a child, or indeed anyone begins to show these symptoms, phone NHS 111 at the very least, or get them to your nearest walk-in centre or A&E as soon as possible. Had we been another couple of hours later getting medical attention for Ben, it would have been too late. The early stages can be treated with antibiotics and often at home. Unfortunately, Benjamin had severe sepsis and he was going into septic shock – his kidneys were beginning to fail. Thankfully, the care of the doctors and the nurses and three nights in the high dependency unit meant that he made a full recovery, and his subsequent nuclear kidney scan and follow up appointments have shown that there was no lasting damage.

Please keep an eye out for these symptoms and get them checked out. They might be signs of something far less serious, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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