Sepsis is a medical emergency. It kills five people every hour in the UK.

Sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. Sepsis leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if not recognised early and treated promptly. 

September 13th is World Sepsis Day. Sepsis kills more people each year than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined – yet many people still don’t know what it is.

Prompt recognition and treatment is vital because the likelihood of dying increases every hour that treatment is delayed.

Donna Lewthwaite and Kaleigh Faust support NHS Staff at NCIC to know how to spot the signs of Sepsis. They are helping raise awareness of the condition.

Donna said: “Sepsis was previously known as Septicaemia or blood poisoning.

“Sepsis is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection. Normally our immune system fights infection, but for reasons that are currently unclear, it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. If not treated quickly, sepsis can result in organ dysfunction and failure.

“Lifesaving treatment is often simple, such as oxygen, intravenous fluids and intravenous antibiotics. Patients have a much better outcome when this treatment is received soon after a patient displays the signs of sepsis.”

Sepsis can develop from any infection, such as:

  • a chest infection
  • a urine infection
  • an infection in the bowel or stomach
  • an infected wound such as a cut or bite

Kaleigh added: “Minor infections are very common. The majority can be treated without visiting the hospital. However, some infections develop into sepsis and as a result hospital treatment may be required.

“Everyone is at risk of developing sepsis, even those in good health with no chronic illnesses. However, you may be more at risk if you are: very young or elderly, suffering from long-term conditions such as diabetes, COPD and heart disease, currently on long-term steroids or chemotherapy, pregnant or have just given birth.”

What does sepsis do to your body?

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

Other symptoms include:

  • slurred speech or confusion
  • extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • passing no urine (in a day)
  • severe breathlessness/rapid breathing
  • it feels like you are going to die
  • skin mottled or discoloured
  • feeling hot or flushed
  • high or low temperature
  • fast heart rate

If sepsis is the primary reason for your admission, you are likely to be treated in A&E or an assessment ward. If sepsis develops whilst you are already in hospital you will be treated on the ward. If your condition deteriorates you may be treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Some patients respond quickly to treatment which may lead to a rapid recovery resulting in a shorter hospital stay.

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