What’s ped. sepsis?

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Pediatric sepsis is a life-threatening complication of infection in infants and children with weaker immune systems. Symptoms include high fever, rapid heart rate, and difficulty breathing. Immediate treatment in the ICU is essential, and newborns are at the highest risk. Antibiotics and other drugs are used to treat the infection, and surgery may be necessary to remove abscesses. Early treatment leads to a full recovery.

Pediatric sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that occurs in an infant or child. Very young patients generally have weaker immune systems than teenagers and adults, so their bodies are less effective at fighting off pathogens. When an infection overwhelms the immune system, it can spread throughout the body through the bloodstream and cause severe symptoms. A patient with pediatric sepsis typically has a very high fever, a dangerously high heart rate, and difficulty breathing. Immediate treatment in the intensive care unit of a hospital is essential to stabilize the patient’s vital signs and halt the progression of pediatric sepsis.

Newborns are at the highest risk of developing pediatric sepsis, and the risk steadily decreases with age. An immature immune system is unable to fight off even seemingly mild pathogens, and sepsis can set in within days if an infection is not treated properly. An infection anywhere in the body can progress to sepsis, but the most common starting sites are the respiratory tract, urinary tract, and skin wounds. Parents should be attuned to the signs of mild infections to ensure their children receive early and effective treatment.

Symptoms of pediatric sepsis can vary. Most children who develop the condition have a high fever, chills, and body aches. Heart rate tends to increase, and breathing may become rapid, shallow, and difficult. If problems aren’t treated right away, a child is at risk of hypothermia and fainting. A very severe and sudden drop in blood pressure accompanied by extreme breathing difficulties can lead to a fatal complication called septic shock.

A newborn who is brought to the emergency room and suspected of having pediatric sepsis is given oxygen and connected to equipment that monitors vital signs. A mechanical ventilator may also be used if the patient is unable to take deep enough breaths with an oxygen mask on. Saline, fluids, and a range of general antibiotics are given through an intravenous (IV) line to stabilize blood pressure, prevent dehydration, and begin treating the infection. Once a patient is stable, doctors can collect blood, urine and mucus samples to test for specific pathogens.

Specific treatment can be started after laboratory tests and physical exams confirm the type of infection involved. Most bacterial infections respond to antibiotics given intravenously or orally. If necessary, antivirals and antifungal drugs are given to fight other types of infections as well. If tests reveal that an abscess, a clump of infected material, exists somewhere in the body, surgery may be needed to drain or remove it. Infants and children who receive prompt care for pediatric sepsis usually recover completely.

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