Sepsis can affect anyone, at any time but it does tend to strike more often people at the extremes of life, the very old and the very young. As a result, children, particularly premature babies and infants, can be more susceptible to developing sepsis. Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly), and/or amputations.
Thousands of children affected worldwide
In the United States, more than 75,000 children develop severe sepsis each year. This works out to about 200 per day and the number is increasing by 8% every year. Almost 7,000 of these children die – this is more than those who die of pediatric cancers. Sepsis in the developing world is even more serious, causing many more deaths.
Many children who survive sepsis are left with long-term problems. More than 1 in 3 children (34%) who survive experience a change in cognitive skills still at 28 days following their discharge from the hospital. Nearly half return to the hospital at least once after surviving sepsis.
In developing countries, many more children develop sepsis and many more die. Sepsis can occur from infections that occur as a result of unsanitary conditions at birth, maternal infections that are passed on to the newborns, or preventable infections that may be more prevalent in countries with limited vaccinations and medical care.
As with an adult, a child can develop sepsis as the result of any type of infection.
Here are some more facts and statistics:
As many as 8% of pediatric sepsis cases may be missed during emergency department visits.
Immunocompromised children and children who are require longer hospital stays are less likely to return to their previous quality of life after hospitalization than other children hospitalized for sepsis.
The cost of hospitalizing children for sepsis increased almost 25% between 2005 and 2016, after adjusting for inflation.
Preterm infants who are Black are more than twice as likely to develop sepsis and are more likely to die than non-black infants.
Children with severe sepsis or septic shock who are Black or Hispanic are more likely to die than non-Hispanic white children.
If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.
Updated August 9, 2020.