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Always Ask - Could it be Sepsis?

Always Ask - Could it be Sepsis?

It’s a condition that many of us know very little about. It’s fast acting and can be fatal. In fact 5 people die with sepsis every hour and over 1000 children die of sepsis every year in the UK alone. Yet Sepsis is the most preventable cause of death worldwide.

It’s currently Sepsis Awareness month in the UK and it’s an important time to raise awareness of this largely misunderstood and often undiagnosed condition.

So here’s our guide to the signs and symptoms of Sepsis and what to do if you suspect you or a loved one might be affected by the condition.

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis (sometimes known as blood poisoning) happens when the immune system overreacts to an infection or injury - e.g. flu, covid, lung infection, gastric flu, external skin wound etc.

Usually our immune system fights infection, that’s what it’s there for. But sometimes, for reasons we don’t yet understand, it actually attacks our body’s own organs and tissues causing them to shut down and fail.

Who can get Sepsis?

Simply put, anyone can get sepsis. No matter how fit and healthy you are or what your socio-economic status may be. If you contract a virus, flu or even simply cut yourself you are at risk of developing sepsis.

We don’t yet know why the immune system can sometimes go into attack mode when fighting infection, but we DO know that it can happen to ANY of us.

However, some people are at a higher risk of Sepsis if they have developed another infection:

  • Those with a weaker or compromised immune system
  • Anyone over the age of 60
  • People with lung, liver or heart conditions
  • Young children under the age of 1
  • HIV, aids or diabetes sufferers

What are the Symptoms of Sepsis?

Sepsis can initially look and feel like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection so it’s, understandably, hard to detect. Unfortunately there is no one sign of sepsis, and symptoms present differently between adults and children.

However, if you develop any of these symptoms you should seek urgent medical help and make sure you ask ‘could it be sepsis’?

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine (in a day)
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It feels like you’re going to die
  • Skin mottled and discoloured

How to spot sepsis in children

  • Is breathing fast
  • Has a fit or convulsion
  • Skin looks mottled, bluish or pale
  • Has a rash that doesn’t fade when pressed on
  • Is lethargic and difficult to wake
  • Feels unusually cold to touch

A child under 5 might have sepsis if he/she

  • Is not feeding
  • Is vomiting repeatedly
  • Hasn’t passed urine in 12 hours

Always seek urgent medical attention and ask ‘Could it be Sepsis’?

Can Sepsis be treated?

Yes, it can. If it’s not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics. Most people who are treated early will make a full recovery however later detection can lead to longer term health conditions so acting quickly is key.

The more people know about Sepsis the more lives can be saved.

Always ask, could it be Sepsis.

For more information take a look at the fantastic resources on the UK Sepsis Trust website. 

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