Find out what sepsis is, symptoms and treatment

What is it?

Sepsis happens when the body’s normal reaction to inflammation or a bacterial infection goes into overdrive. The bacteria create a toxin that causes widespread inflammation and rapid changes in the baby’s body temperature, blood pressure, in the lungs and other organs. Premature babies receiving neonatal intensive care are particularly susceptible to sepsis. This is because their immune systems are less developed. These babies can also get infections through catheters, ventilation tubes and long-term intravenous lines.


Symptoms of sepsis can be difficult to detect in babies. Several tests may be ordered to confirm diagnosis, including blood tests and blood cultures (to check whether bacteria are present in the blood), urine tests, X-rays and lumbar puncture. You can find more information on lumbar puncture here


Doctors will often treat the symptoms of sepsis with antibiotics given intravenously (through a tube or intravenous line) before diagnosis has been confirmed. Antibiotics commonly used to treat sepsis include benzylpenicillin, gentamicin and flucloxacillin.

The information on this page is more than two years old