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Sepsis

Sepsis is the body's response to infection that has spread throughout the blood and tissues.

Babies with sepsis may:

  • Be lethargic
  • Have a low or high temperature
  • Not eat well
  • Have apnea or difficulty breathing
  • Look jaundiced
  • Just not act right

What causes it?

Sepsis is an infection caused by bacteria growing in the blood. The bacteria can get into the blood:

  • During labor and delivery from the mother
  • From IV lines
  • After close contact with an individual who's infected with, or is a carrier of, bacteria

How is it diagnosed?

A blood culture – sometimes along with a urine test or spinal tap – is used to diagnose the illness.

How is it treated?

When doctors suspect sepsis, they'll treat the baby with antibiotics until the lab results come back (usually in 48 hours). If those results are positive for sepsis, the baby receives antibiotics for 7 to 14 more days while being closely watched.

How long will my baby be in the NICU?

Cases of sepsis are often severe (the infection can lead to meningitis, organ damage, and occasionally, death) and require a fairly long NICU stay, sometimes several weeks.