Paediatric sepsis

Sepsis is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment

Sepsis represents a leading cause of death and disability in children with more than 50 children in Australia dying of sepsis every year.

Signs and symptoms of sepsis

Paediatric patients with sepsis will deteriorate rapidly so early recognition is vital. When screening for sepsis, clinicians should look out for:

  • Signs of infection
  • Looks sick/toxic
  • Parental and/or clinician concern
  • Immunocompromised
  • Altered behaviour or reduced level of consciousness
  • Age younger than three months

Clinicians must also consider parental or carer concern. Is the illness behaving differently to other previous childhood illnesses the child has had?

Signs and symptoms of sepsis

If your patient has a suspected infection combined with any of the above symptoms, we recommend using the paediatric sepsis pathway. The pathway is a cognitive aid to help health professionals in ruling in or ruling out sepsis and does not commit the treating team to a diagnosis of sepsis and does not replace good clinical judgement.

In the event your patient has been reviewed for suspected sepsis, or does have an infection, it is recommended the family is provided with a copy of the paediatric sepsis checklist so they are alert to the signs and symptoms of sepsis should the infection not subside.


The paediatric sepsis bundle, provided as part of the paediatric sepsis pathway is to be completed within one hour of sepsis recognition and includes:

  • Ensure senior clinician is aware the patient has sepsis – follow your local escalation pathway
  • Maintain oxygen saturations
  • IV / intraosseous access and blood culture
  • Commence IV / intraosseous antibiotics as soon as possible
  • Commence fluid resuscitation
  • Consider inotropic support.

To expedite the appropriate administration of antibiotics, the pathway also includes an antibiotic administration guideline.

Access the paediatric sepsis pathway

For further information visit Children’s Health Queensland Sepsis website

Last updated: 16 March 2023