Septicaemia in children 0-5 years

Sepsis is uncommon, but it can be a serious complication of any type of infection. It may be caused by viral or fungal infection, but most common following a bacterial infection.

Septicaemia, sepsis or blood poisoning as it is often called, is caused by bacteria getting into the bloodstream.

It needs treating urgently as it affects the major organs in the body and can cause death.

If your child has any of the symptoms below, take them straight to A&E or dial 999

Symptoms in children under 5 years

  • skin looks bluish, mottled or pale (look around the lips and eyes)
  • child is very sleepy, difficult to rouse or wake
  • breathing very fast
  • feels cold
  • has a rash that doesn’t fade when you press it
  • has had a fit or convulsion

Meningitis glass test

If your child is suffering with any of the following symptoms or is getting more ill (even if their temperature is coming down), get medical advice urgently by calling NHS 111.

Remember, you as the parent know your child better than anyone, so go with your instincts and call for help or advice.


  • A temperature over 38C (101F) in babies under 3 months old
  • A temperature over 39C (102F) in babies 3 to 6 months old 
  • If your child has a high temperature and is weary, lethargic, or not themselves, and you can’t get them to show interest in anything
  • If your child has a low temperature ( below 36C -check 3 times in a 10 minute period)


  • If it looks like your child is finding breathing more difficult than usual
  • If they ‘grunt’ at each breath
  • If they have a noticeable pause in their breathing pattern
  • For older children who can talk, if they struggle to say more than a couple of words before getting out of breath.

Eating and drinking

  • Refusing drink for more than 8 hours
  • If your baby is under 1 month old and will not feed
  • Green, black or bloody sick (vomit)

Other things to look for:

  • There have been no wet nappies or no wee for 12 hours
  • Soft spot (fontanelle) on the top of the baby’s head is swollen or sunken
  • Baby is limp
  • Not showing any interest in anything
  • Eyes seem dark or sunken
  • Weak continuous crying and fretfulness
  • Irritable and unresponsive
  • Pain when looking up or down
  • Confusion in older children

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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

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