Sepsis: What You Really Need to Know

Published: 22/05/2019

Sepsis kills thousands of people in the UK every year, but awareness of the condition is still shockingly low. Here's our guide to prevention, identifying the symptoms and how to deal with suspected sepsis.

Sepsis is a condition that many people don’t know much about, yet it has a huge impact on global health. It’s estimated that between 27 and 30 million people worldwide are affected by the condition every year, and 6 to 9 million of those people will die. In the UK, figures from the Sepsis Trust reveal that it kills a staggering 5 people every hour, that’s 44,000 every year.

What is sepsis?

You might have heard sepsis referred to as ‘blood poisoning’ or ‘septicaemia’ (although they are not technically the same thing). Sepsis occurs when your body’s immune system overreacts to an infection. Instead of just fighting off the infection, the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy tissue and organs. If not caught early, the damage done to the body can result in organ failure and ultimately death.

The most common cause is bacterial infections, but viral and fungal infections can also be the starting point. Sepsis can develop from common ailments such as:
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Post-surgical wounds
  • Cuts and bites
  • Leg ulcers
  • Pneumonia and flu
  • Burst gastric ulcers
Sepsis can affect anyone, regardless of their age or general health. However, some people may be more susceptible to developing the condition, this includes: 
  • People over 60 and young children
  • Pregnant women or women who have recently given birth
  • People health conditions that affect the immune system, like AIDS or leukaemia
  • People on chemotherapy or immune-suppressant medication
  • Transplant recipients
  • Diabetics
  • People who have had their spleen removed
Although no one yet knows why some people will develop sepsis, if caught in the early stages, it can respond well to treatment. Raising awareness of the symptoms and getting medical help quickly could potentially save millions of lives every year.

What are the early symptoms?

In its early stages, sepsis can resemble gastroenteritis, flu and other common ailments that make you feel generally under the weather. It can also look similar to meningitis. Early signs include faster breathing and heart rate and feeling feverish, shaky and cold.

If you experience these symptoms and think it might be the result of an infection, the NHS advise you to get in touch with your local GP or the NHS 111 health advice line. Whatever you do, don’t just leave it and hope it will go away.

What are the signs of severe sepsis?

Severe sepsis is an emergency that needs immediate treatment. Signs and symptoms include:
  • Not passing any urine
  • Diarrhoea
  • Extreme shaking/shivering
  • Confusion and slurred speech
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Muscle pains
  • Cold, clammy skin that can looks mottled or pale
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
If you see or experience these symptoms, it’s time to dial 999 or get to your nearest Accident and Emergency department as soon as possible.

Improving health through awareness

We’re big believers in the idea that prevention is better than cure, here at Bluebird Care Bromley. Keeping up to date with vaccinations, practising good hygiene and seeking help straight away if you think you or someone else has an infection could all help to prevent sepsis from developing in the first place.

As a leading homecare agency, the health and safety of those we care for is paramount. With sepsis being such a serious but preventable condition, we’re passionate about raising awareness to protect the wellbeing of our customers, our staff and everyone in our community.

If you have any questions about us or our in-home care services, just get in touch.

Further Information: If you’d like to know more or have been affected by sepsis, the Sepsis Trust is a great resource for information and support.