• Sepsis is when your child's immune system causes widespread inflammation in response to a serious infection. Children have many infections every year and most do not cause sepsis however any infection can cause sepsis if it is severe enough.

    Symptoms and signs

    It's important to be aware of the symptoms and signs of sepsis and seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect your child may have sepsis. Some of the key things to watch out for include:

    • rash that does not go away with when pressed
    • fast breathing or shortness of breath
    • fast heartbeat
    • drowsiness or confusion
    • cold, clammy skin, blue or grey tint to lips and fingers
    • unexplained severe pain


    Sepsis is usually caused by bacteria in the bloodstream. This may start as an infection such as pneumonia or appendicitis.

    Young children, particularly those less than one month of age, children with immunodeficiency, children receiving cancer chemotherapy, and children with intravenous lines/devices are at particularly high risk of developing sepsis.


    If your child is showing any of the symptoms and signs above, it's important to seek medical attention right away. Sepsis is a medical emergency, and early treatment improves outcomes. Sepsis is treated with antibiotics in hospital and requires close monitoring to ensure your child’s infection is responding to treatment.


    In addition to seeking medical attention, there are some steps you can take to help prevent sepsis from occurring in the first place. This includes making sure your child is up-to-date with their vaccinations, practising good hygiene (such as washing hands frequently), and seeking prompt medical attention for any signs of serious infection.


    Some children who have had sepsis may have ongoing physical, emotional, thinking and memory challenges and need specialist follow-up.

    Key points to remember

    • sepsis is a serious condition that requires urgent medical attention
    • it is important to be aware of the symptoms and signs of sepsis so that you can act quickly to protect your child’s health.

    For more information


    Common questions our doctors are asked

    How is sepsis diagnosed?
    There is no one specific test for sepsis. The diagnosis is based on a combination of symptoms, signs, and the results of tests (blood tests and sometimes other tests such as xrays).

    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Emergency Department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Reviewed April 2023.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit


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