Sepsis – be aware

Sepsis or  blood poisoning can happen as a result of an infection or injury.  Our immune systems normally fight infection however sometimes it can attack our body’s own organs and tissues.

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection.  It can be treated if caught early.


Seek emergency medical help if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • 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


If a child is unwell with any of the symptoms below, call 999 and ask could it be sepsis?

  1. Breathing very fast
  2. Has a ‘fit’ or convulsion
  3. Looks mottled, bluish, or pale
  4. Has a rash that does not fade when you press it
  5. Is very lethargic or difficult to wake
  6. Feels abnormally cold to touch

For children under 5, symptoms of Sepsis may include, if they are:

  1. Not feeding
  2. Vomiting repeatedly
  3. Has not passed urine for 12 hours

Sepsis causes around 37,000 deaths a year in the UK.  It usually develops from blood poisoning and involves a dramatic reaction by the body’s immune system.  If not treated quickly it can lead to organ failure or death.  Early symptoms can include a high temperature and a fast heartbeat.

Case study

Julie Bignone nearly died.  Feeling feverish, she assumed she had a bad dose of flu. After a weekend in bed, Julie went to her GP and was told to come back if she got worse.  Later the same day Julie was taken to hospital.  She had pneumonia in both lungs and sepsis, doctors feared she might not survive.

Julie feels now that she should have acted on her instinct early on that she was suffering from something a lot worse than flu.  She says: “There’s a lot of scope for getting it wrong with sepsis because the symptoms are not specific enough – we need to get a system where doctors listen to patients more and allow them to have more of an opinion”.

UK Sepsis Trust

Infection leading to sepsis can start anywhere in the body.  It can occur following chest or water infections, abdominal problems like burst ulcers, or simple skin cuts and bites.  It is a life threatening condition that leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death if not treated early.

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