Strep sepsis warning: Bacteria can quickly affect immune system

U.S. & World

(NBC) – A Texas mother is warning parents about how a common childhood illness almost killed her son.

Rachel Barker says she didn’t give it much thought when her son, Hunter, dished out a complaint she had heard before.

“He woke up Monday and was like, ‘I have a headache,’ and I was like, ‘It’s Monday, we all have headaches, no one wants to go to school!’ He had a 99.1 which was nothing,” Rachel said.

But she says Tuesday, his fever climbed to 104 and his pediatrician’s office told her it was probably a virus.

By Friday, things got worse.

“He had a rash on his face and I remember thinking, what is that? Google’s your best and worst friend. I thought it was broken capillaries from vomiting, well, that made sense,” said Rachel.

Still, even though Hunter seemed in good spirits, she decided to take him to the hospital.

“When we got in, there is a paramedic there, and he asked, ‘When did his lips turn purple?’ and that’s when I just froze. I thought, it wasn’t like that a minute ago – and we were just getting out of the car.”

And in a matter of minutes, Hunter was close to death.

Strep bacteria like the one that causes strep throat had infected his lungs.

He had pneumonia, which led to sepsis, and his immune system was attacking his organs.

“When they told me sepsis I knew that was bad. My only thought was, ‘Did we not do enough that we could have prevented this? What if we could have brought him sooner what if we had? Why didn’t I know more?’”

Doctors say as with all infections, strep throat can trigger sepsis.

It’s not common, but Rachel feels it’s something all parents should know.

“We didn’t know. We took him to the doctor twice. We thought, okay, it’s a viral thing, we will let it run it go and we didn’t know to ask more or demand further tests,” she said.

Luckily, Hunter responded well to treatment and after two and half weeks in the hospital, he was able to return home.

Symptoms of sepsis can include confusion, shortness of breath, extreme pain, sweaty skin, high heart rate and fever.

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