What is sepsis?
Sepsis is an infection in the blood that can spread to other parts of
the body. In newborns, there are two common types of sepsis.
Early onset sepsis
Occurs within 7 days of birth. Risk factors include:
• Premature birth or low birth weight
• Mother’s water broke more than 18
hours before birth (premature rupture
of the membranes)
• Infection in the mother or in the
placenta (chorioamnionitis)
Late onset sepsis
Develops when the baby is at least 7 days old, and is
usually due to exposure to germs after birth.
Risk factors include:
• Premature birth or low birth weight
• Baby treated for other health problems
in the hospital
What are the symptoms of sepsis?
Symptoms of sepsis in newborns can include:
• Low activity level
• Limited interest in eating or poor feeding from breast or bottle
• Abnormal body temperature (can be too low or too high)
• Pale skin color
• Vomiting, diarrhea, and/or bloating
• Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
• Yellow color of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
• Trouble breathing, or a brief stop in breathing (apnea)
• Decreased heart rate (bradycardia)
• Tremors or seizures

Treating Sepsis

Does sepsis cause long-term problems?
When treated, most newborns recover from sepsis. However,
some babies develop complications such as meningitis (infection
of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord) or pneumonia.
These complications may result in longer hospital stays and a
higher risk for long-term problems. The NICU team will watch
your baby for signs of these problems. Early treatment of
sepsis can help prevent these other infections.
What treatment will my baby receive?
Newborns with sepsis are treated with antibiotics.
Sicker babies may also receive:
• Intravenous (IV) fluids
• Extra oxygen – given by nasal cannula (nose tube) or mask:
– CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) – a treatment
that uses mild pressurized air to keep the lungs open
– Mechanical ventilator (in rare cases) – a machine that
helps your baby breathe using a tube
How will I know how my baby is doing?
Your health care team will keep you up to date on your baby’s
progress. They will watch the baby’s vital signs (such as
heart rate, breathing, and temperature). They may also take
blood samples to see if the infection is improving.
What will happen next?
Many babies respond well to treatment for sepsis; however,
each baby is different. Talk to your baby’s health care team.
They can answer any questions you have about your baby

Glossary
Antibiotics – medicines that
fight infections caused by bacteria
Apnea – brief stop in breathing
Bradycardia – decreased heart rate
Chorioamnionitis
(kor-e-o-am-nee-o-ni-tis) – infection
of the placenta and the fluid
surrounding the baby
CPAP (continuous positive
airway pressure) – a treatment
that uses mild, pressurized air to
keep the lungs open
Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar
Jaundice – yellow color of the
skin and the whites of the eyes
Mechanical ventilator – a machine
that helps your baby breathe by
pushing air in and out of the lungs
Meningitis (men-in-jahy-tis) –
infection of the tissue around the
brain and spinal cord
Pneumonia (noo-mohn-yuh) –
infection of the lungs
Sepsis – an infection in the blood
that may spread to other parts of
the body

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