What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a condition that kills more people in the UK each year than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined. There are around 150,000 cases of sepsis a year in England and unfortunately round 44,000 people die every year as a result of the condition.
Sepsis is caused by viral or fungal infections and can even be triggered by something as simple as a contaminated cut or insect bite. However, bacterial infections are by far the most common cause of Sepsis.
Who does Sepsis effect?
Anyone can develop Sepsis after an injury or minor infection, although the elderly and the very young, people with weak immune systems due to pre-existing medical conditions or medical treatments, people who are already in hospital with a serious illness or who have just had surgery or who have wounds or injuries as a result of an accident are more vulnerable
Following an infection, your immune system would normally kick in to fight the infection and stop it spreading. But if the infection manages to spread quickly round the body, the immune system then launches a massive immune response to fight off the infection.
This can also be a problem as the immune response can have catastrophic effects on the body, leading to septic shock, organ failure and even death.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms differ slightly depending on age.
There is no one sign for Sepsis. For children under five look out for:
· temperature over 38C (babies under three months)
· temperature over 39C (babies aged three to six months)
· any high temperature in a child who cannot be encouraged to show interest in anything
· low temperature (below 36C – check three times in a 10-minute period)
· change in breathing
· being unable to say more than a few words at once (for older children who normally talk)
· not having had a wee or wet nappy for 12 hours
· little or no appetite or interest in feeding
· bile-stained (green), bloody or black vomit/sick
· a seizure or convulsion
More tell-tale signs include:
· soft spot on a baby’s head is bulging
· baby is floppy
· weak, “whining” or continuous crying in a younger child
· not responding or very irritable
· stiff neck, especially when trying to look up and down
For older children and adults signs to look out for include:
· a high temperature (fever) or low body temperature
· extreme shivering or muscle pain
· a fast heartbeat
· fast breathing or severe breathlessness
· mottled or discoloured skin
What should you do if you suspect you or someone in your care has Sepsis?
If you or your child has any of the symptoms listed above you should seek medical advice urgently from NHS 111 especially if you or your child has recently had an infection or injury. If sepsis is suspected, you’ll usually be referred to hospital for further diagnosis and treatment.
Severe sepsis and septic shock are medical emergencies. If you think you or someone in your care has one of these conditions, go straight to A&E or call 999
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 are likely to be very ill and will require admission to hospital.
However, the good news is that sepsis is treatable if it is identified and treated quickly, and in most cases leads to a full recovery with no lasting problems