Press release

Spotlight on sepsis in infants and children: parents are invited to attend HSE webinar

Published: 22 April 2024

Updated: 3 May 2024

To coincide with Paediatric Sepsis Awareness Week (22 to 28 April), parents of infants and children are invited to attend a HSE webinar which will highlight the signs and symptoms of sepsis in children.

While sepsis can affect anyone with an infection, young children are at an increased risk of sepsis. The symptoms of sepsis can often be mistaken for something else, and symptoms in children can be different than those in adults. The HSE advises parents to be vigilant, and if their child has an infection and they are not getting better, to ask: "could it be sepsis?"

The signs and symptoms of sepsis in children are:

  • very fast breathing
  • fits or convulsions
  • mottled skin (irregular colour) bluish or pale
  • a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • unusually sleepy and difficult to wake
  • unusually cold when you touch them
  • has had no pee for more than 12 hours

If a child is under 5 years old, it's important to seek help if they are:

  • not feeding
  • vomiting repeatedly 
  • dry when you change them, and they have not had a wet nappy for the last 12 hours

Dr Martina Healy, Consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care Medicine, HSE, says:

"One in five patients who develop sepsis will die, but with early recognition and early treatment, this risk will be reduced. Anyone with an infection can be at risk of sepsis, even if they are taking antibiotics. However, this does not mean every infection will develop into sepsis. We encourage parents and caregivers to make themselves familiar with the signs and symptoms of sepsis. If your child is unwell and not getting better, seek medical attention and always ask, 'could it be sepsis?’”

Recently published research has shown a high awareness of sepsis among the public but a low knowledge of the signs and symptoms of sepsis.

Research Findings:

  • 39% of adults say they're not very aware or not aware at all of the signs and symptoms of sepsis
  • fever is the symptom most associated with sepsis, but it's also easy to confuse this symptom with other conditions
  • 51% of adults would not be confident in dealing with someone they suspect of having sepsis
  • symptoms of sepsis are easy to dismiss, miss or mistake for something else

On 1 March 2019, 10-year-old Vivienne Murphy, Millstreet, Co. Cork, died two weeks after complaining of a high fever, sore throat and a rash. Vivienne had initially been diagnosed with a viral infection; however, Vivienne had strep A, which is a throat infection. As a result of this infection, Vivienne developed sepsis and died. Vivienne's parents are urging others, in particular parents, to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of sepsis themselves.

Vivienne Murphy's parents say:

"When Vivienne first became unwell and continued to deteriorate, we were told by multiple doctors that she had a viral infection, but it was, in fact, Strep A she was suffering from. From there, Vivienne deteriorated very quickly and developed sepsis, which caused her to become extremely unwell. Two weeks after Vivienne had become unwell, she died.

We are urging parents to make themselves familiar with the signs and symptoms of sepsis. If you have a feeling that something is not right always seek medical attention. But most of all, trust your instincts. If you feel your child is suffering from something more than a virus, ask the question, 'Could it be sepsis? If we only knew then what we know now, Vivienne would be alive. If our message can help to save even one child, then sharing our experience, which is extremely hard to do, would have been worth it."

Watch the webinar on replay - Youtube

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