When to take your child to hospital…

Today, we’ve heard in the news about the tragic death of one year old, William Mead, who died as his sepsis went undiagnosed by GPs and the 111 NHS helpline. Having just listened to an interview on Radio 2, with NHS consultant, Dr Ron Daniels, world leader of sepsis and founder of The UK Sepsis Trust, here’s what parents should be aware of.

We can trust our instincts, can’t we?

As a mum of three, we have had our fair share of childhood illnesses as well as one very severe allergic reaction.

In some ways, I have become a bit too acclimatised to illness, maybe even a bit blase. I don’t usually take my child to the doctors for a cough or cold. Instead I wait for it to pass and trust my instincts to tell me when something is seriously wrong.

But, instincts aside, how do we know the difference between an overreaction on our part and when something needs immediate medical attention?

It doesn’t matter.

We’re now bombarded with NHS adverts about what constitutes an emergency, warranting A&E attention and what doesn’t.

It’s possibly made some of us hesitate and question ourselves, when our kids are ill. Whether we are being a precious parent, overreacting. Whether we’re wasting someone’s time if we rush our children to A&E.

But actually? When it comes to our kids. IT DOESN’T MATTER.

If you’re worried. If you’ve been to the doctors and there’s no improvement. If you have a niggle or an instinct that something isn’t right, remember.

Only you know your child, like you do.

What is Sepsis?

William died from Sepsis, a condition that is apparently the second biggest killer in the UK (affecting both children and adults). Basically the body’s immune system goes into overdrive in response to infection and can result in organ damage, shock and eventual death.

William’s started with a cough. A cough that was dismissed by the doctor as, ‘nothing to worry about.’ A cough that got worse. And was then accompanied by vomiting, listlessness and a change in William’s behaviour. A call to the NHS helpline reassured his mother that everything was ok. His mum continued to check him constantly, even looking for signs of the meningitis rash we are all so familiar with.

But William didn’t have this rash. Instead, he had a very cold arm and a mottled skin colour, something that is less commonly associated with Sepsis.

Sadly, by the time this had happened, William had died at home in his cot.

We don’t need to panic but…

We shouldn’t panic at this tragic story. But we should use it to become better informed.

We should arm ourselves with the lesser known facts and then the confidence to always do what our gut instinct tells us. If we’re wrong, we might leave feeling a little embarrassed that we’ve ‘wasted’ someone’s time. But we haven’t.

And at least we get to leave.

When to go to hospital.

Dr Ron Daniels, says that any of the following are RED FLAGS for taking a child to hospital immediately. Don’t go the doctors. Don’t call 111. Go straight to A&E.

1. A high fever. OR a low fever, which persists and is accompanied with abnormal (listless) behaviour, quick breathing, rapid heartbeat, skin that is COLD to the touch.

2. Any skin colour changes whatsoever. A rash. Mottled/marbled skin. Becoming very pale or slightly blue. (In conjunction with any of the symptoms above.)

3. Your child becoming unresponsive and acting out of character – not able to make eye contact, not wanting to move, not showing interest in anything, not speaking or conversing.

We thank you Melissa.

If you want to watch William’s mum, Melissa’s, heartbreaking, but incredibly brave interview with the BBC, you can do so here.

Melissa, you have every parent in the land behind you. We all thank you for sharing your story so courageously and we are so desperately sorry for the loss of your gorgeous boy, William.

I hope you know that, today, you have made many parents sit up and take notice.

And become better informed.

More information about Sepsis here. Please share this post with other parents. Let’s stand tall together and be armed with the power that is knowledge. Like the FB page for more posts.

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    5 thoughts on “When to take your child to hospital…

    1. Anna

      Thank you for this, it is very helpful. I must admit I’m a little confused by Dr Daniels advice though. Surely you don’t go straight to A&e with any skin colour change at all, even a rash in the absence of the other symptoms? Young children get rashes often with viral infections. Also it would be useful to clarify what age group this advice applies to. Many thanks

    2. Sarah

      I’m sorry. I don’t think our instincts are to ignore symptoms in our babies and young children. As this case quite clearly shows, the parents went to their GP four times before their son died. They knew he wasn’t well and they were fobbed off time and again. There needs to be more awareness of Sepsis in parents but also in health professionals. I don’t find the beginning of your blog helpful or at all fair for the parents concerned!

      1. Amy RansomAmy Ransom Post author

        You’ve misinterpreted this piece. I completely support the parents concerned and am not doubting that they did everything they could. I wasn’t questioning their instincts, I was raising the point that whilst we believe we can trust our instincts, how do we know when to go to hospital? Often we don’t want to waste someone’s time. If it’s our first baby, we might not feel confident enough. It happens, although not in this case. It can be difficult for health professionals, like a GP, to diagnose Sepsis as the symptoms can develop very suddenly. Anyway, this blog has been shared hundreds of times and had over 15k views so I’m pleased that there are now a lot more parents, me included, that have a bit more information about this awful disease.


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