Neonatal sepsis results from acute bacterial or viral infection occurring in the first 28 days of life. It causes significant morbidity and mortality, although the outcome can be improved by early recognition and prompt treatment by health professionals. This article describes the most common causes of sepsis, and explains why neonates are particularly vulnerable to infection. It highlights the non-specific way in which an infant with a serious infection may present, indicating the crucial features to elicit during history taking and examination, and emphasising the 'red-flag' signs and symptoms that should increase suspicion of a serious illness. The authors have adapted National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines to produce an evidence-based approach to the management of an infant with suspected sepsis, and describe the roles of nurses in ensuring effective treatment and best outcomes for these babies.
Keywords: Antibiotics; Group B Streptococcus; National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines; Neonatal sepsis.