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Sepsis

Sepsis is also known as septicaemia and blood poisoning.

In the UK sepsis kills 52,000 people every year, more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined.

The disease has three stages depending on its severity: sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock.

Sepsis is a life-threatening disease and must be treated as a medical emergency. It is caused when the body overreacts to an infection and starts to damage its own tissue and organs. This can result in shock, multiple organ failure and death.

Treatment involves the patient being given antibiotics in hospital.

Although anyone can get sepsis some people are at greater risk than others. These include babies and children, pregnant women, the elderly, people who have recently had some form of infection, and those with a chronic illness or who already have a weakened immune system, such as those having chemotherapy.

Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages because the symptoms can easily be mistaken for those of other illnesses. Recognising the symptoms early and prompt treatment does save lives.

The symptoms in babies and young children can be different to those experienced by older children and adults.

Symptoms to look out for in babies and young children include:

  • blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  • a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
  • difficulty breathing (you may notice grunting noises or their stomach sucking under their ribcage), breathlessness or breathing very fast
  • a weak, high-pitched cry that's different to their normal cry
  • not responding like they normally do, or not interested in feeding or normal activities
  • much sleepier than normal or difficult to wake
  • not passing urine for 12 hours.

If a baby or young child has any of these symptoms go to A&E or call 999.      

Symptoms to look out for in older children and adults include:

  • a very high or low temperature, feels hot or cold to the touch, or is shivering
  • appearing confused, slurred speech or not making sense
  • blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  •  a rash that does not fade when you press a glass over it
  • difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast
  • not passing urine for 24 hours.

If an adult or older child has any of these symptoms go to A&E or call 999. 

If you are concerned a member of your family or someone in your care may have sepsis, call NHS 111. They will be able to advise you on what to do.


 

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