Infections sometimes lead to germs entering the bloodstream, which is known as sepsis. The body’s response to this can make you - or someone you are caring for - look or feel very poorly. Sepsis is sometimes referred to by health professionals as septicaemia or blood poisoning.
In many cases it will start from a urine (bladder), chest or skin (cellulitis, infected wound) infection, but any infection can lead on to sepsis.
Some people are more likely to get sepsis, for example those who are very young or old, those who have diabetes or other long term medical conditions, those who have poor immune systems because of diseases (liver problems or cancer) or treatments (steroids, chemotherapy), or women who are pregnant or have just given birth.
The majority of infections do not go on to produce sepsis, but if you are worried, please contact your GP or dial 111.
If you are very concerned that you or the adult or child you are caring for needs urgent attention, dial 999 for an ambulance or attend a hospital Emergency Department without delay.
There is no single sign for sepsis that you can look out for, but you could consider it if you have one or more of the symptoms below.-
· high temperature (hot to touch) or sometimes a very low one (very cold to touch)
· the shivers or the shakes
· had a fit (convulsion)
· difficulty breathing or fast breathing
· vomiting or diarrhoea
· not been able to take enough water or other drinks
· not passed urine for long time
· a rash that does not fade when you press it with a glass
· skin colour that is different to normal (pale/blotchy/mottled/bluish)
· patches of redness, dark discolouration or swelling of the skin on a part of the body, which is painful to touch
· more sleepiness than usual (lethargy) or difficult to rouse (wake-up)
If you have previously contacted a health professional and you or the person in your care has not got any better, or has got worse, then call them again and say:-
· when you last called
· who you called (on-call doctor, your GP, NHS 111)
· what the signs and symptoms were then and how they are different now
· that you are ‘worried about sepsis’
Sepsis in children
A raised temperature (fever) in children is common, but can be worrying. Almost all children will recover quickly and without problems. However, a small number of children will have a serious infection that requires medical assessment and sometimes urgent treatment in the hospital.
Use the Sepsis Trust leaflet (linked below) to show you what to look for if your child has a temperature and you are concerned.
A smart phone app called the HANDi Paediatric App is also available to download for Apple and Android phones. This provides expert support to parents/carers and medical professionals looking after children wiht the most common childhood illnesses, and is localised for Devon and Somerset.
Finding out more about sepsis
NHS Choices has a useful summary page.
You can find out more from the website of the UK Sepsis Trust. The Trust have also produced a summary leaflet, What Is Sepsis.
The leaflet linked below, "Spotting sepsis and serious illness in children," is a resource produced by the Sepsis Trust and is available in print from their store.