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What is bacteremia?

When bacteria are in your child's bloodstream it’s called bacteremia. This illness is most common in children 3 months to 3 years of age.

What is the cause?

Bacteremia is thought to be caused by bacteria that grows in the upper airways or other parts of the body and then gets into the bloodstream. The bacteria may be spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing, or from touching something that has the bacteria on it, such as toys or door knobs. Once a child is infected, usually the child's immune system will get rid of the bacteria without treatment. The immune system is the body’s defense against infection. Depending on the type of bacteria and your child's health, your child may develop a serious infection that affects his entire body, which can be fatal.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is fever.

How is it diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child will have blood tests to check for bacteria.

How is it treated?

Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics may be given by mouth, by a shot, or by IV.

If your child is seriously ill or there is concern that the bacteria has spread to another part of her body, your child may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. Read the label and give as directed. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome. Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Read the label carefully and give your child the correct dose as directed. Do not give more doses than directed. To make sure you don’t give your child too much, check other medicines your child takes to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, your child should not take this medicine for more than 5 days.
  • Make sure your child drinks lots of fluids, even though she may not want to drink because of feeling ill.

Ask your child’s provider:

  • How long it will take for your child to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent bacteremia?

Keep your child’s shots up to date. Many of the shots routinely given during childhood protect against the types of bacteria that can cause bacteremia.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-23
Last reviewed: 2014-09-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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