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Sepsis: The Symptoms. Don’t get caught out!

Child recovering from sepsisThere are around 150,000 cases of sepsis each year in the UK of which about 44,000 people a year die from sepsis – more than kills bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined (figures from The Sepsis Trust) Unfortunately, it is not always spotted or considered early enough as a report issued in 2015 stated 4 in 10 patients weren’t treated quickly enough with lifesaving antibiotics.

I survived sepsis 13 years ago, thanks to prompt treatment and lifesaving surgery.  I was fortunate to keep the leg that had developed a massive abscess, although when I went to theatre I’d signed a consent form that would have allowed amputation if necessary. However, many others are not so lucky and live with devastating consequences of the condition.

NICE has just issued guidelines to NHS staff to be vigilant to the possibility of sepsis and to treat within an hour to reduce the risk of significant injury or death. They have suggested that it should be treated with the same level of urgency as a heart attack. Early symptoms may include high fever and ‘flu-like illness’, loss of appetite etc

What is Sepsis?

It is a rare but serious complication of an infection which if not treated promptly may lead to lifelong debilitating problems or death. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures tissues and organs. It may lead to shock, multi organ failure and death if not treated promptly. Infections can start anywhere in the body and may be triggered by something as simple as a small cut or insect bite. Usually the immune system fights off infections but in sepsis the immune system launches a massive response which causes problems.

Key Sepsis Symptoms include:

  • 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

In children also consider sepsis if they:

  • are breathing very fast
  • have had a fit or convulsion
  • look mottled, blueish or pale
  • have a rash that doesn’t fade when you press on it
  • are very lethargic or difficult to wake
  • are abnormally cold to touch
  • haven’t had a wet nappy or passed urine in 12 hours.

If in doubt seek urgent medical advice as time is critical.

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About the Author:

Heather Sawyer is Director of Training at HTS Training Ltd.  She is also a hands-on first aid trainer, registered nurse and blogger on health and related matters.  HTS Training deliver a range of first aid courses for the workplace, CPD training for the Healthcare sector, and first aid training for the Education sector.

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