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Sepsis awareness – how to spot the signs and save a life

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Posted on 24th December 2018.

Although sepsis is a life-threatening and serious complication of an infection, it is one of the least recognised. At least 46,000 people die in the UK as a result of it but if everyone learnt to spot the signs of the condition, this could be dramatically reduced.

The condition can affect any number of people so educating yourself on the causes, symptoms and action to take is incredibly important.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a condition that occurs when the body’s response to infection quickly escalates and starts to attack its own tissues and organs. It is often referred to as blood poisoning or septicaemia, but these terms describe the invasion of bacteria into the bloodstream. Sepsis can rapidly result in organ failure and death, affecting multiple organs or the entire body.

Signs of sepsis to look out for

Knowing the signs and symptoms of sepsis can be the difference between life and death. It is not just up to medical professionals to recognise the condition, but everyone as with every minute that passes without the correct medication, the risk of death increases.

Seek urgent medical advice if you or if anyone around you start to develop the following symptoms:

  • Very high or low temperature
  • Low blood pressure and a weak pulse
  • Slurred speech and confusion
  • Mottled or discoloured skin
  • Reduction in urine passed normally
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • A fast heartbeat

Who can get sepsis?

Sepsis does not discriminate. anyone can get it regardless of age and health. However, there are some individuals who at a higher risk of developing the condition. It is helpful to have a heightened alertness if you or a loved one:

  • Has an existing medical condition which results in a weakened immune system
  • Are very young or very old
  • Have just undergone surgery and have wounds as a result of an accident
  • Are already in hospital with a serious illness

The importance of being aware

Emma Henderson, Chelmsford branch Care Coordinator

Emma, the Care Coordinator at our Chelmsford branch,  recently attended an introductory meeting with a new customer. She spent time talking with the lady and discussing her support needs, but during the meeting became concerned that the lady was exhibiting some of the signs of sepsis. Emma suggested to the lady’s son that he should call the doctor to get his mother checked over, just to ensure that there was nothing serious happening.

The son did so and later in the day called back into the branch to advise that his mother had been diagnosed with sepsis. The doctor advised that if the son had not sought out medical support when he had, his mother would not be here today. He truly believes that Emma’s observations saved his mother’s life.

Seema, carer from Chelmsford

While carrying out her daily care duties, Seema noticed her customer was shivering uncontrollably during her visit. Knowing something wasn’t right with the lady, she called for healthcare assistance. Her customer was admitted to hospital immediately and following assessment, it was confirmed that she had sepsis. Without Seema’s quick-thinking, the lady could have been without the necessary medical intervention for many hours which would have severely impacted her chance of surviving the condition.

These stories highlight the necessity of being aware of the signs of sepsis. If it is treated urgently within the first hour, evidence has shown that the risk of death is lessened and survival rates can be more than 80%. Taking the time to notice the symptoms can save lives.

Kerry Wright