How to spot sepsis in children

Sepsis is life threatening. It can be hard to spot. If you think you or someone you look after has symptoms of sepsis, call 999 or go to the emergency department. Trust your instincts.

Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection. It happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body's own tissues and organs. You cannot catch sepsis from another person. Sepsis is sometimes called septicaemia or blood poisoning.

Call 999 or go to the emergency department if a baby or young child has any of these symptoms of sepsis:

  • Blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis
  • Difficulty breathing (you may notice grunting noises or their stomach sucking under their ribcage), breathlessness or breathing very fast
  • A weak, high-pitched cry that's not like their normal cry
  • Not responding like they normally do, or not interested in feeding or normal activities
  • Being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake

They may not have all these symptoms.

Call 999 or go to emergency department if an adult or older child has any of these symptoms of sepsis:

  • Acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense
  • Blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  • A rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis
  • Difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast

They may not have all these symptoms.