Blood Infection In Children: Reasons, Signs & Treatment

Blood Infection in Kids

Blood infection or sepsis, is the leading cause of death among children all around the world every year. It is a condition when the immune system overreacts to such an extent that it affects the organs causing fatality.

What is Blood Infection in Children?

Also known as sepsis, a blood infection in children occurs when the body creates large quantities of antibodies to fight an infection in the blood-stream. Newborns from the age of two months and children (who are not vaccinated) till the age of three are especially susceptible to the disease since their immunity is not fully developed till then. However, babies who are under two months old, having received antibodies in their mother’s womb, are protected from such an infection. The only exception being the strep B newborns, who contract the disease from their mothers. Eventually, as the child grows, the risk decreases and by the age of three, the child is at a much lower risk.

Causes of Blood Infection in Children

Blood poisoning in children or sepsis in newborn happens when bacteria of one part of the body manage to get into the main bloodstream of the baby. The bacteria in the blood cause septicaemia, which, if it is not detected and treated on time, can cause sepsis.

However, there are various other factors which cause the disease in children.

  1. Sepsis (in newborns or children till the age of three) can happen if they are not vaccinated. Children from the age of 2 to 36 months have very low immune system. Thus, vaccination acts like a shield and protects the child from various infections.
  2. Open wounds, cuts and abrasions if left untreated for a long time can result in blood infection in babies. The reason being the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, which can spread into the main bloodstream through the open, untreated wound.
  3. Blood infection in newborn or children can also occur due to urinary tract infection, pneumonia, ear infections and sometimes even due to meningitis.
  4. Pregnancy complications like the mother developing an infection in the uterus or the placenta, the amniotic sac rupturing way ahead of delivery or the mother developing fever or infection during labour can also cause blood infection in newborns.
  5. Children being born and brought up in an unhealthy and unsanitary environment with poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system which in turn can lead to sepsis.

The equipment used in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) like catheter, tubes and intravenous lines which are used to make incisions to administer medicines also at times leads to blood infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Blood Poisoning

Most of the times, children do not show any signs or symptoms of the blood infection. However, the most significant sign is body temperature or fever rising higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Apart from this, the other symptoms or signs are:

  1. Children below three months of age may become tired and cranky. They may have loss of appetite and therefore refuses to eat.
  2. The infected newborn may have difficulty in breathing and at times some may even stop breathing for a good 10 seconds.
  3. They also urinate less and turn pale.
  4. The symptoms may include rashes on the skin, bulge of a soft spot (fontanelles) in the forehead.
  5. The blood infection or sepsis may also induce seizures in infected newborns.
  6. Older children may show signs of irritability. They too, like newborns, are cranky.
  7. A change in heart rate is seen.
  8. Older children, like newborns, may also show difficulty in breathing.
  9. The children may have difficulty in passing urine.
  10. The children may experience vomiting and confusion.

Baby with septicemia showing skin rash

Diagnosis of the Blood Infection in Kids

Since the symptoms or signs of the blood infection in children are not clear or definite, doctors order a series of lab tests to confirm or rule out blood infection in children. The doctor firstly looks for ear, throat or lung infection if in case the baby develops a fever. If there are no signs of any other infection, the doctor asks for certain tests to be done.

  1. Blood tests are conducted to check if there are bacteria or micro-organism in the blood.
  2. Blood tests are conducted for checking oxygen level and clots.
  3. A spinal tap may be conducted to rule out bacterial meningitis.
  4. A chest X-ray may also be conducted to rule out chest or lung infection because pneumonia, if not detected and treated on time, may lead to blood infection in the child.
  5. The doctor may also conduct tests to rule out the possibility of urinary tract infection.
  6. Other tests like CT scans, MRI scans and ultrasounds are also conducted to detect infections in other internal organs of the child.

Treatment of Blood Infection

Blood infection or sepsis in children can be fatal if not detected and treated on time. If timely treatment is not given, then the infection may spread to the heart valves or tissues which in turn may infect them and finally damage them. So while the lab test results are awaited, the doctor starts administering antibiotics to the child in order to bring down the fever and minimise the effects of the infection to the other organs of the body. In case the child looks very ill, the doctor may give him antibiotics through injections but in case the child has fever but no other signs of infection, he may prescribe antibiotics to be taken orally.

However, in case the test reports come positive, then the following steps are taken:

  1. The very first thing that the doctor advise is to admit the child in the hospital so that proper treatment can be administered to the child and proper steps can be taken to cure the infection.
  2. Then the doctor administers antibiotics intravenously since in case of serious condition, the child is unable to take antibiotics orally.
  3. Then fluid is administered intravenously to the child so that the child remains hydrated. At times food is also given intravenously.
  4. In case of blood clots, blood plasma is administered.
  5. At times, blood pressure medicines are also administered to the child in order to keep the heart working properly.
  6. Usually, in case of blood infection, children experience breathlessness. At times a child even stops breathing for 10 seconds which could prove to be fatal. Therefore, as soon as a child suffering from blood infection comes in, he is put on respirators so that he may not have any trouble breathing.
  7. At times in certain critical cases where some organs get damaged, an operation has to be conducted in order to repair the damage.
  8. Apart from all the above points, a child who is suffering from blood infection becomes very vulnerable. Therefore, he should be kept in very clean environment and surroundings during the treatment and even after it. In case a child follows the same lifestyle after the treatment, he may be at a risk of getting himself infected again. Thus proper hygiene should be maintained and good and nutritious food given to the child in order to increase and develop his immune system.
  9. It also needs to be seen that a child is given the entire course of antibiotics and also returns back for follow up visits with the doctor.

Risks and Complications of Blood Infection

The risks of blood poisoning in kids are many. First and foremost, if sepsis is not diagnosed early and treated on time, it may even prove to be fatal for the child. It is said to be five times more fatal than that of heart attack or stroke. In worst cases, the blood pressure drops, the heart weakens, some of the organs in our body stop working and once these happens, the child spirals into septic shock which in turn leads to multi- organ failure. Sepsis is, in fact, one of the major challenges in the intensive care units in the hospitals where it is one of the leading cause for deaths.

Home remedies for blood infection

Home Remedies for Blood Infection

Blood infection or sepsis is a serious ailment in children. It is a medical emergency which cannot and should not be treated at home. However, we can always make use of some natural remedies which can be found at home or in our gardens.

  1. Vitamin C: It plays an important role in treating blood poisoning. It mostly helps in preventing the starting of blood poisoning. It also helps in the growth and repair of any damaged cells in the body. Vitamin C is an immunity booster and also helps in healing wounds. It helps the patients to fight the bacteria in the blood and improve the functioning of the small blood vessels.
  2. Turmeric: It is widely known as one of the most important traditional remedies for various ailments including blood poisoning. It is also known as a natural remedy and can increase the protein content in a child’s body. After being infused with more protein, the body can combat and inhibit various types of infection. This healthy ingredient is also beneficial for preventing swelling and bonds with its antibiotics and leaves with very little or no side effects.
  3. Garlic: Like Turmeric, Garlic is also a natural immunity booster and therefore an effective natural remedy for sepsis. It is rich in a component called Allicin which helps in fighting against certain types of inflammations which leads to Blood infection. Chopped garlic cloves along with honey if swallowed regularly can ward off blood poisoning.
  4. Honey: It is believed to modulate the immune system and therefore enables in fighting sepsis causing bacteria effectively. It is also considered to be a fast recovery booster. Honey, if consumed daily, can ward off all types of infections and if applied to a wound, is a perfect cure.

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  5. Slippery Elm: Treating a cut or a wound with the slippery elm can prevent bacteria from attacking and entering our body through the wound.
  6. Herbs: Dandelion leaves, nettle leaves and birch leaves are good ingredients to make herbal infusions. These leaves are put into boiled water which when taken, flushes out all the toxins from our body thereby preventing blood poisoning.
  7. Avoiding Germs: Lastly the most important among all is to keep in mind to avoid germs. We must keep our hands clean by washing them regularly, especially after one uses the toilet. We must also make sure to keep our dirty or unwashed hands away from cuts and sores in order to prevent blood poisoning.

Apart from these, we can also give our children citrus fruits like Lemons and Oranges.

How to Prevent Blood Infection in Children

Sepsis cannot be prevented always as it can result due to some infection within the body itself. Therefore, we must try and prevent sepsis by preventing what causes them.

  1. First and foremost and the most important, every child should be immunised in accordance with the schedule of the vaccinations and age of the child. Blood infection can be prevented to a great extent by getting the child vaccinated thoroughly and on time.
  2. We must make sure to clean every cuts, wounds and abrasion with an antiseptic.
  3. On seeing any signs of sepsis, we must take our child to the doctor immediately since blood poisoning if detected early, can be cured.
  4. Getting one’s child checked by a doctor in case of any rashes or skin infection, can go a long way in preventing sepsis.
  5. We must try and keep our children away from people suffering from any kind of infection like lung infection or skin infection. This will help in preventing the child from acquiring the infection from the affected person.
  6. A child must be given a healthy and nutritious diet in order to boost the immune system which in turn will help in fighting against any kind of infection.
  7. One must follow proper hygiene by taking regular baths and washing hands before every meal and after every toilet visit and also teach his child to do so.

As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, we must try and prevent sepsis by consciously following the simple rules which will help the child in leading a more better and healthy life. This will not only help in increasing a child’s life expectancy in our country but also help our society and our country at large, in constructing a better tomorrow.

Also Read:

Neonatal Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Blood Infection (Sepsis) During Pregnancy

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