A mom is warning parents after sick son's wound turned out to be sign of sepsis

She wants other parents to know that if a kid is sick, they shouldn't ignore this.

Because of their developing immune systems, children get sick all the time. In many cases, it's nothing serious, but parents often err on the side of caution and take their child to the doctor when anything seems strange.

U.K. mom Alexandra Ruddy is glad she did, because it ended up saving her son's life.

As the mom detailed in a Facebook post, in late May, her 8-year-old had a fall at the zoo, leaving him with some wounds on his arm and elbow. She tried to make sure his cuts didn't get infected by cleaning them when he got home, and telling her son's school to make sure he washed his hands after digging during a designated "farm" theme day. "I tried hard to ensure it was kept clean," she wrote.

Although her son's wounds didn't look infected, she became concerned when she noticed they had grown. She wrote that on their way to the beach a week or so after the fall, she saw a red line tracking down his vein, as well as down his elbow. Because her friend's son had gotten sepsis two years ago, she decided to take her child to urgent care just in case, even though she admitted feeling "a bit silly" about it.

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Signs your cut is infected
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Signs your cut is infected

There are particles still stuck in your skin

Depending on the circumstance that caused your scrape, such as falling on gritty pavement, it’s possible that small particles could have gotten lodged in the affected area. It’s critical to remove any particles or dirt from your wound immediately, during the cleansing process, according to Sonoa Au, MD, of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. in New York and New Jersey, or you could have an infected cut. “However,” she adds, “if you find that you have to dig at your skin to get rid of anything that’s stuck, see a doctor instead.” Don’t assume that scrubbing away at your skin is helpful or that dirt will work its way out—and definitely don’t make these other dangerous first aid mistakes. When in doubt, have a medical professional thoroughly clean and assess your scrape or cut.

You used soap to clean your scrape

Surprised to see soap on the list? It’s just one of the common health products that can be dangerous for you and your family. Regular hand soap can sometimes irritate skin, which may stall the healing process and in turn, lead to an infected cut. Of course, the way everyone reacts to various cleansers differs from one person to the next, but why take the chance when tending to your cut or scrape? The best bet is for you to refrain from using harsh ingredients. “Use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil to clean the area,” Dr. Au suggests.

You skipped the bandage 

If you think it’s a good idea to let your skin “breathe” after cleaning out a cut or scrape, think again. Dr. Au explains that exposing your skin this way has infection written all over it. “New cells have to migrate to the appropriate areas to help with healing,” Dr. Au explains. “Keeping your scrape covered and moist facilitates this process. Exposing wounds to air does not.” The best way to get on the fast track to healing and help prevent infection is to keep the wound hydrated with ointments like Neosporin, Vaseline, or Aquaphor. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “petroleum jelly prevents the wound from drying out and forming a scab; wounds with scabs take longer to heal.” However, following these tips can speed up healing to get rid of that scab.

Your cut is very deep or was caused by rusty metal 

Getting a deep wound in general—especially one caused by rusty metal—doesn’t guarantee that you’ll develop an infected cut, but it does mean you should seek medical attention immediately. Don’t try to resolve these kinds of cuts or scrapes on your own at home. Dr. Au is adamant about seeing a doctor in these instances because you’ll likely need stitches or at least additional attention above and beyond at-home application of Vaseline and a bandage. Here’s what to do when you can’t get to a doctor, from a survival specialist.

Redness around the affected area persists

It’s perfectly normal for skin around the cut or scrape to look different for a while: Redness, some pain, and even the appearance of tissue that’s commonly confused for pus (more on that later) is often par for the course. The warning sign to watch for, according to Dr. Au, is when any of these symptoms seem to get worse rather than better. Redness around a cut or scrape is a sign of healing, for example. But when that color persists or spreads significantly, it may have become infected. See your doctor ASAP—and make sure you’re not picking or rubbing at your cut or scrape.

Your pain doesn’t subside

Obviously, cuts and scrapes hurt a little—some hurt a lot. But if your pain lingers to a point that seems abnormal or intensifies instead of gradually improving, then Dr. Au says it’s time to reach out to your doctor about a possible infection. These are other pain signals you should pretty much never ignore.

The pus is smelly or green 

Two things to look out for if you develop pus after getting a cut or scrape: color and odor. If you observe pus that’s green and/or foul-smelling, that’s a surefire sign of an infected cut that should have you dialing your doctor. But a yellow-ish substance on your cut or scrape? No need to worry. Dr. Au says that what you’re seeing, in that case, is actually something called granulation tissue, which is a part of the healing process and shouldn’t be confused with pus. Here are some more signs of skin irritation to watch out for.

You feel ill

Although it seems like signs of a skin infection would be confined to your skin, that’s not always the case. As infection spreads, your body mounts a stronger counter-attack—and that can cause systemic symptoms such as fever, nausea, mental confusion, or just feeling out of sorts (did you know there’s a reason why you feel cold when you have a fever?). While everyone is different if you feel bad after a lingering wound, head to a doctor for an assessment of your skin and symptoms. Your infected cut could be getting more serious.

When your infection becomes something more serious

Skin infections can escalate into a grave threat, and it can happen literally overnight. Staph infections are one example. According to the Mayo Clinic, these infections are brought on by staphylococcus bacteria, germs that are typically found on the skin of healthy people. They’re usually not problematic; it’s when the bacteria invade your body that a staph infection can turn deadly by creating toxicity in your bloodstream. One of the kinds of infections caused by staph bacteria is cellulitis, which is marked by redness, swelling, sores, or areas that ooze a discharge—typically confined to the feet and lower legs. Impetigo is another skin infection brought on by staph bacteria. It’s a contagious, painful rash that typically results in large blisters along with an oozing fluid and an amber-colored crust. Be sure to see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms or suspect your infection has taken a turn for the worse. He or she may prescribe antibiotics or drain areas of your skin to help improve your condition. Don’t miss these silent symptoms of sepsis, or blood poisoning. It could just save your life someday.

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When the doctor examined her son, he broke the news. The red tracking was a sign of blood poisoning or sepsis, a life-threatening condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sepsis happens when an existing infection "triggers a chain reaction throughout your body." If you don't get treated fast enough, it could quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure and death. On the CDC website, signs mentioned include high heart rate, fever, shivering and feeling cold, and symptoms include confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath, extreme pain or discomfort, and clammy or sweaty skin. In addition to treating the source of the infection, patients with sepsis are also given antibiotics and receive oxygen and intravenous fluids to maintain blood flow and oxygen to organs.

Alexandra wrote that the doctor commended her on seeking medical attention for her son so quickly after noticing the red tracking, because things could've turned out very badly for her child if she had waited longer. "It isn’t something you can 'leave' until Monday when the doctors are back in the office," she wrote.

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Best Hospitals: 2018-2019
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Best Hospitals: 2018-2019

20. Brigham and Women's Hospital

Where: Boston
Honor Roll points: 177
Last year's Honor Roll rank: Not ranked

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19. Duke University Hospital

Where: Durham, North Carolina
Honor Roll points: 178
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 17th

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18. Mount Sinai Hospital

Where: New York
Honor Roll points: 192
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 18th

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17. Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Honor Roll points: 198
Last year's Honor Roll rank: Not ranked

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15 (tie). UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside

Where: Pittsburgh 
Honor Roll points: 208
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 14th

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15 (tie). NYU Langone Hospitals

Where: New York
Honor Roll points: 208
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 19th

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14. Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian

Where: Philadelphia 
Honor Roll points: 225
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 10th

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13. Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Where: Chicago 
Honor Roll points: 228
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 13th

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11 (tie). Mayo Clinic Phoenix

Where: Phoenix
Honor Roll points: 241
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 20th

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11 (tie). Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Where: St. Louis 
Honor Roll points: 241
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 12th

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10. New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Where: New York
Honor Roll points: 242
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 8th

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9. Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital

Where: Stanford, California
Honor Roll points: 250
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 9th

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8. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Where: Los Angeles 
Honor Roll points: 252
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 11th

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7. UCLA Medical Center

Where: Los Angeles 
Honor Roll points: 267
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6. UCSF Medical Center

Where: San Francisco
Honor Roll points: 296
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 5th

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5. University of Michigan Hospitals-Michigan Medicine

Where: Ann Arbor
Honor Roll points: 324
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 6th

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4. Massachusetts General Hospital

Where: Boston 
Honor Roll points: 354
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 4th

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3. Johns Hopkins Hospital

Where: Baltimore 
Honor Roll points: 355
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 3rd

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2. Cleveland Clinic

Where: Cleveland 
Honor Roll points: 385
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 2nd

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1. Mayo Clinic

Where: Rochester, Minnesota
Honor Roll points: 414
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 1st

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Just like her friend, who, by sharing her story about her son getting sepsis, helped Alexandra save her son's life, the U.K. mom hopes to pay it forward. "If you spot this red line running from a wound along the vein get yourself and your child seen straight away. Hopefully my post might help someone the way my friend’s post from two years ago helped me," she wrote.

As for her son? When she wrote the post, which now has 97,000 shares, she said her son had been responding well to the antibiotics and was feeling better.

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