Neonatal sepsis is an infection in a newborn baby’s blood. It can appear any time from the first day after birth to at least 28 days.
Neonatal sepsis is a serious problem. Medical care is needed right away.
|Spread of Infection|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Sepsis is caused by germs that the baby comes in contact with. Bacteria is the most common cause. Some sepsis can be caused by viruses or fungus, but this is less common. The germs may pass to the baby from:
A baby’s immune system needs time to develop. This can make it hard for the baby to fight an infection. A baby could get very ill quickly.
Sepsis is more common in male babies. It is also more likely in babies who are:
- Born very early
- Born with a low birth weight
Other things that may raise the risk are:
The baby may have:
- A fever or many changes in temperature
- Problems feeding or vomiting
- Fussiness or a high-pitched cry
- Lack of energy
- Yellow, blue, or pale skin
- Bruising or bleeding
- Skin rashes or cool, clammy skin
- Fast breathing, problems breathing, or times when they are not breathing
- Swollen belly
- Little or no urine (pee)
The doctor will ask about the baby's symptoms and any health issues. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect an infection based on symptoms. The specific cause of infection may be found by testing:
- Fluid around the brain and spinal cord
- Fluid that may come out with cough
It is important to treat sepsis as soon as possible for the best outcomes. A severe infection can hurt organs like the brain, kidneys, or lungs. Medicine can help to treat the infection. They may include:
The baby may also need support during illness. Support may include:
Neonatal sepsis may be prevented by good prenatal care. This could mean stopping any germs in the pregnant parent from spreading to the baby.
People caring for the newborn should wash their hands often. This can help stop germs from spreading.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov
Health Canada http://www.canada.ca
Sick Kids—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.sickkids.ca
Early-onset neonatal sepsis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/early-onset-neonatal-sepsis. Accessed April 18, 2022.
Late-onset neonatal sepsis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/late-onset-neonatal-sepsis. Accessed April 18, 2022.
Neonatal sepsis (sepsis neonatorum). The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/infections%5Fin%5Fneonates/neonatal%5Fsepsis.html. Accessed April 18, 2022.
Neonatal sepsis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Accessed April 19, 2022.
Shane AL, Sánchez PJ, et al. Neonatal sepsis. Lancet, 2017; 390 (10104): 1770-1780.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
- Review Date: 02/2022
- Update Date: 04/19/2022