Learning About a Septic Workup for Newborns

What is a septic workup?

A septic workup is a series of tests that look for an infection, and its source, in babies. It's most often done with newborns up to 3 months old. A septic workup looks for an infection caused by bacteria.

Why are septic workups done for newborns?

A septic workup tells your doctor whether your baby has an infection that needs treatment.

Newborns can get infections easily. Their immune systems are not yet able to fight off many illnesses. Sepsis is a serious illness caused by an infection. A baby could get very sick or even die if there is an infection that is not found and treated. So it is important to find and treat an infection early.

Be aware of the signs

It's not always easy to tell if a baby is sick. You may not know if crying or fussiness means that your baby is ill. Signs of a problem include:

  • Changes in your baby's usual behaviour or routine. Your baby may cry and not act normal.
  • High or low temperatures soon after birth.
  • Fever. Babies younger than 6 months should be seen by a doctor anytime they have a fever.
  • Blood sugar problems soon after birth.

What happens during a septic workup?

A septic workup is done at the hospital. The doctor will take a sample of blood from your baby. Your doctor may also take a sample of your baby's urine or spinal fluid. The samples will be tested for bacteria.

Your baby may stay at the hospital while you wait for the final test results. This may take a few days. During that time, the doctor may start treatment.

If a test shows that your baby:

  • Has an infection, he or she will be treated with antibiotics.
  • Does not have an infection, further treatment may not be needed.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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