Early diagnosis of sepsis is critical, so it is important to know what it is to ensure early detection. Sepsis is a condition that affects 25,000 children in the UK each year, but it can affect adults too. Although our immune system normally fights germs to prevent a localised infection, sometimes the infection moves into the blood, causing the immune system to go into overdrive and attack the organs and tissues of the body. This is called sepsis and is often referred to as blood poisoning. It can result from a chest infection causing pneumonia, a urine infection, problems in the abdomen like a burst ulcer, an infected cut or bite, a wound from an injury or surgery or a leg ulcer. It is often caused by common bacterium that wouldn’t normally make us ill.
Early detection is critical for sepsis diagnosis so that it can be treated with antibiotics. If the symptoms aren’t caught quickly enough the effects can be long lasting and result in organ failure. A quarter of all sepsis survivors suffer permanent, life changing after effects and five people are killed every hour in the UK1.
At Pryers we’ve seen the long-lasting effects of sepsis in a number of cases, all which could have been avoided with earlier diagnosis. Healthcare professionals are trained to look out for the symptoms, but they can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of sepsis just in case someone you know is taken ill so you can ask the right questions.
Who can Suffer from Sepsis?
Anyone can suffer from sepsis, regardless of their age or level of health and fitness, however, those with a weakened immune system may be more likely to be affected. This includes the very young or old, anyone who has just given birth or is pregnant, is diabetic, has serious liver disease, malnourished, had an organ transplant or leukaemia.
The Symptoms of Sepsis
Symptoms of Sepsis in Adults:
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Passing no urine (all day)
- Severe breathlessness
- It feels like you’re going to die
- Skin mottled or discoloured
Sepsis is sometimes harder to identify in children as they often suffer from fevers with infections, but if your child has either a fever or a very low temperature call 999 and ask – could it be sepsis?
Symptoms of Sepsis in Children:
- Breathing very fast
- Has a ‘fit’ or convulsion
- Looks mottle, bluish, or pale
- Has a rash that does not fade when you press it
- Very lethargic or difficult to wake
- Feels abnormally cold to touch
Symptoms of Sepsis in a Child Under 5 Years Old:
- Not feeding
- Vomiting repeatedly
- Has not passed urine for 12 hours
What to do if You Identify the Symptoms of Sepsis?
If there is any risk or indication that someone might be suffering from sepsis don’t wait, get help. Call your GP or 111 if you are concerned about an infection. If your loved one seems to be deteriorating, call 999. Feel free to ask them if you think it is sepsis.
The Long Term Impact of Sepsis
Once you’ve suffered from sepsis, you are much more susceptible to getting it again within the following 12 months, so anyone who has suffered from it should be especially vigilant for signs and take extra measures to protect themselves from infections.
What is Meningococcal Disease?
The meningococcal disease is closely linked to sepsis, meningococcal septicaemia is where the bacteria enters the bloodstream and multiplies uncontrollably. As the bacteria dies, they release toxins into the blood, these toxins then damage the blood vessels causing bleeding into the skin and organs (Septicemia). The meningococcal disease is extremely fast acting so the need for early detection is crucial. The rash associated with meningitis is actually caused by septicaemia.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask: “Could it be Sepsis?”
Unfortunately, as sepsis normally occurs as the result of another infection, the symptoms can be masked. You may even be in hospital at the time of the illness, but medical professionals are often treating the original symptoms, so you are encouraged to ask if it is sepsis to see if they have ruled out that diagnosis already. We have seen many clients lose limbs, suffer from organ failure, loss of movement or feeling in limbs, fingers and toes, and sometimes loss of life. The effects always feel more tragic when it is as a result of a common infection, something that can be quite easily treated if caught at the right time.
Can we Help You?
If you or someone you know has suffered from sepsis which has caused further complications or long-term effects and you’re not sure if it should have been diagnosed earlier, speak to our team at Pryers. We can help identify when the sepsis developed and what action should have been taken.
* Stats from The UK Sepsis Trust May 2019