Sepsis Kills

In England around 123,000 causes of sepsis occur, which results in approximately 35,000 people dying each year from the condition.

Anyone can develop sepsis especially after an infection or injury however, some people are more susceptible to this, with sepsis being one of the direct causes of death in UK pregnancies.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs. Common signs and symptoms include fever, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and confusion.

Sepsis signs and symptoms can be hard to spot as they look like that of someone having flu or a chest infection.

Although sepsis is often referred to as either blood poisoning or septicemia, these terms refer to the invasion of bacteria into the bloodstream.

Without quick treatment, Sepsis can affect multiple organs or the entire body, even without blood poisoning or septicemia.

Sepsis can also be caused by viral or fungal infections, although bacterial infections are by far the most common cause.

Who is at Risk?

·      Someone with a medical condition or receiving medical treatment that weakens their immune system

·      Someone who is already in hospital with a serious illness

·      Someone who is very young or very old

·      Someone who has just had surgery or who have wounds or injuries because of an accident

The UK Sepsis trust has come up with a useful mnemonic for sepsis:

S – Slurred Speech

E – Extreme shivering or muscle pain

P – Passing no urine in a day

S – Severe breathlessness

I – I feel like I might die

S – Skin mottled or discoloured.

If you see any of these, you should seek urgent medical help.

The NHS advice is to go straight to A&E or call 999 if a child presents with the following:

·      Looks mottled, bluish or pale

·      Is very lethargic or difficult to wake

·      Feels abnormally cold to touch

·      Is breathing very fast

·      Has a rash that does not fade when you press it

·      Or finally, has a fit or convulsion.

Sepsis symptoms in older children and adults may include:

·      An elevated temperature (fever) or low body temperature

·      Chills and shivering

·      A fast heartbeat

·      Fast breathing.

In some cases, symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock when your blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level can include:

·      Feeling dizzy or faint

·      A change in mental state – such as confusion or disorientation

·      Diarrhoea

·      Nausea and vomiting

·      Slurred speech

·      Severe muscle pain

·      Severe breathlessness

·      Less urine production than normal – for example, not urinating for a day

·      Cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin

·      Loss of consciousness.

If you think you or someone in your care has any of these conditions go straight to A&E or call 999.

Tests to diagnose sepsis

Sepsis is often diagnosed based on simple measurements such as your temperature, heart rate and breathing rate.

A blood test may be required. Other tests can help determine the type of infection, where it’s located, and which body functions have been affected.

Treatments for sepsis

If sepsis is detected early and hasn’t affected vital organs yet, it may be possible to treat the infection at home with antibiotics. Most people who have sepsis detected at this stage make a full recovery.

Almost all people with severe sepsis and septic shock require admission to hospital. Some people may require admission to an intensive care unit (ICU).

Because of potential problems with vital organs, people with severe sepsis are likely to be very ill and the condition can be fatal.

However, sepsis is treatable if it is identified and treated quickly and, in most cases, leads to a full recovery with no lasting problems.

You can find more about sepsis on the UK Sepsis Trust website at

For more information on classroom or onsite First Aid training visit Safe Hearts Training website.

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