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What is Sepsis?

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This month I am talking all about Sepsis. According to the UK Sepsis Trust, there are at least 260,000 cases of Sepsis a year in the UK. An estimated 44,000 of those people die, which is a rate of about five people an hour. As many as 25,000 children are affected by Sepsis in the UK every year.

So, what is sepsis?

Sepsis is a severe and life threatening reaction to an infection. It happens when your body overreacts to a normal virus or infection and starts to damage your own body’s tissues and organs.

It is not something you catch from someone else, it is a body reaction. Sometimes you may hear it being called septiceamia or blood poisioning.

If it isn’t treated immediately, Sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Sepsis can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. There is no one sign, and symptoms present differently in adults and children.

For adults use the Sepsis acronym to check symptoms:

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

If your baby or child is unwell with either a fever or a very low temperature (or has had a fever in the last 24 hours), call 999 and just ask: could it be Sepsis, if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Is breathing very fast
  • Has a ‘fit’ or convulsion
  • Looks mottled, bluish, or pale
  • Has a rash that does not fade when you press it (This is one of the last symptoms, don’t wait for this)
  • Is very lethargic or difficult to wake
  • Feels abnormally cold to touch

A child under 5 may have Sepsis if he or she:

  • Is not feeding
  • Is vomiting repeatedly
  • Has not passed urine for 12 hours

Who is most likely to get it?

The six groups of people most likely to get Sepsis are:

  1. Babies under one (1), particularly if they were born premature or their mother had an infection while pregnant
  2. Adults over the age of 75
  3. People with diabetes
  4. People with a weakened immune system i.e. someone who has been through chemotherapy, or had an organ transplant
  5. People who have just been through surgery or had a serious illness
  6. Women who have given birth, had a miscarriage or had an abortion

What do I do if I think someone have Sepsis?

Remember not all the symptoms will show so if you suspect Sepsis because of any of the symptoms call 999 or go quickly to your local A&E.

Sepsis moves fast so trust your gut and go see a doctor. They would rather see you and say it is not Sepsis than it be too late to help you.

If you would like to get more information on first aid principles, learn some interesting first aid facts and maybe test yourself on your own first aid knowledge then sign up to my email list using this link: to receive my monthly newsletter.

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