In General Health

The next few minutes spent reading about this common but little-known medical emergency could help you to save a life.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition. It can occur in any age-group. It is triggered by an infection and is often fatal, but it doesn’t have to be. People can be saved if sepsis is detected early and the right given treatment quickly.

More than 100,000 people are admitted to hospital with sepsis in the UK each year. 10,000 of these are children and 37,000 of these people die as a result of the condition. A huge number of these deaths could be prevented with quick detection and urgent medical treatment, usually with antibiotics. There is a severe lack of knowledge in the UK about how to spot sepsis.

What happens during Sepsis?

In sepsis the body becomes overwhelmed by an infection. The infection could start anywhere, even from something as simple as a cut or a bite, a chest or urine infection.

As the body’s immune system goes into overdrive during sepsis, it sets off a series of dangerous reactions. If the blood pressure drops, this can result in a dangerously reduced blood supply to vital organs. If not spotted early and treated quickly, sepsis can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death.

Are there any risk factors for Sepsis?

Sepsis can affect anyone at any time, especially if they are known to have had a recent infection. It can happen even if the person is usually very healthy. Additional risk factors include someone being:

  • very young, very old or someone with a weakened immune system
  • diabetic
  • pregnant
  • following recent surgery or an accident, or on long term steroid medication

If I think myself or someone else might have Sepsis, what should I do?

As soon as you suspect sepsis in yourself or someone else you must seek medical help urgently. Even one hour can mean the difference between life and death.

Tell the medical person the symptoms and make sure to say that you are worried about sepsis so that they quickly consider this as an option.

What are the symptoms of Sepsis

The symptoms of sepsis can be different in children and adults. If you are worried and the person affected has one or more of the symptoms below, you must seek urgent medical attention immediately. Symptoms can be mistaken for flu so always be vigilant.

Babies & Children – the Symptoms

  • High body temperature now or in past 24 hours
  • Sudden drop in body temperature
  • Cold hands or feet with warm body
  • Feeling cold to the touch
  • Pale, mottled or blushed skin, or a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • Fast breathing
  • Not feeding or eating
  • Repeated vomiting
  • No wee or wet nappy for more than 12 hours
  • Fits
  • Being very irritable and crying inconsolably
  • Being drowsy, lethargic, difficult to rouse or staring into space

Adults – the Symptoms

  • Slurred speech, confusion or altered mental state
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine in a day
  • Severe breathlessness (more than 20 breaths per minute)
  • I feel like I might die’ or someone feeling extremely ill
  • Skin mottled, discoloured or having a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • Temperature under 36C or above 38.3C
  • Heart-rate faster than 90 beats a minute in adults
  • The person may also be or have recently been unwell with a flu-like illness, chest infection, diarrhoea, dizzy or faint, vomiting or inability to eat or drink

To find out more about Sepsis and how you can raise awareness of this very serious condition to help save more lives, please visit the Sepsis Trust website by clicking here.

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