Sepsis – What it is and why you need to know about it.

What is sepsis?

The short version…

Sepsis is the body’s immune system over responding to an infection. Normally, our immune system fights infection. However, it can go into overdrive and attack our body’s own organs and tissues. Sepsis is responsible for about 5 deaths every hour in the UK, so it’s important to learn how to recognise it and what to do.

Adult signs and symptoms of sepsis:

If an adult has any of these signs and symptoms of sepsis, call 999 or go to A&E.

Slurred speech.

Extreme shivering or muscle pain.

Passing no urine (in a day).

Severe breathlessness.

It feels like you’re going to die.

Skin mottled or discoloured – possibly blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue. They may have a rash that doesn’t fade when you roll a glass over it.

Child symptoms of sepsis:

-Difficult or fast breathing.

-Blue, pale or blotchy skin.

-A rash that doesn’t fade when you roll a glass over it.

-They may be sleepier than normal or difficult to wake.

-They may feel abnormally cold to touch.

-They may make a weak, high-pitched cry, unlike their normal cry.

-They may not respond like they normally do or may not be interested in feeding or other normal activities.

Anyone with sepsis may not have all of these symptoms.

Sepsis is life threatening. If you suspect sepsis – ring 999 or go to A&E.

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The long version – what do you need to know about sepsis?

Tell me more about sepsis?

Also known as blood poisoning or septicaemia, sepsis is a multifaceted host response to the invasion of normally sterile tissue by pathogenic, or potentially pathogenic micro-organisms.

Sepsis can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Although treatable, up to 52,000 deaths per year are related to sepsis. That’s about 5 deaths every hour in the UK. Each hour of delay in giving antibiotics to a person with septic shock has an increased mortality rate of around 7%.

Pathophysiology of sepsis

There is a high incidence of variability in individuals due to age, underlying comorbidities, the cause and medications. Small amounts of cytokines are released into the circulation, leading to the recruitment of inflammatory cells and an acute-phase response normally limited by anti-inflammatory mediators. In the case of sepsis, there is a failure to control the inflammatory cascade, leading to a loss of capillary integrity, maldistribution of microvascular blood flow and stimulation of nitric oxide production, all leading towards organ injury and dysfunction. 

Who can get sepsis?

Anyone with an infection can get sepsis. You can’t catch sepsis from another person. Sepsis can be caused by a huge variety of different germs, like streptococcus, e-coli, MRSA or C diff.

Among other things, sepsis can result from: 

-a chest infection causing pneumonia.

-a urine infection in the bladder.

-an infected cut or bite.

-a wound from trauma or surgery.

How to help prevent infections

-Clean and care for any wounds.

-Wash your hands regularly and teach children how to wash their hands properly.

-Follow the instructions and take all your prescribed antibiotics – even if you start to feel better.

-Keep up to date with vaccines.

All our First Aid courses cover infection control so if you want to brush up on your life saving skills, give us a shout as we’re always happy to help!