World Sepsis Day fell on Monday of this week, and we thought it was the opportune time to make you all aware of the vital importance of recognising sepsis early – it could be the difference between life and death. Once again we’ve teamed up with the experts at The UK Sepsis Trust – we would urge you to read this blog and avoid the tragedy that is a death through sepsis . . .
Why do you need to know about sepsis?
Many people have never heard of sepsis, or if they have, people are often confused about what it is, and what signs to look out for. However, sepsis kills 48,000 people in the UK every year, which is more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer deaths combined. If it isn’t treated immediately as a medical emergency it can take someone’s life in under 24 hours. Although it can affect anyone of any age, pregnant women, women who have recently given birth, babies and young children are some of those most vulnerable to developing the condition.
We completely understand that pregnancy and parenthood can be really stressful at times, and this blog post is not meant to frighten or give you ‘another thing to worry about’! The idea is to empower you with knowledge about sepsis so that if something doesn’t feel right, you have the confidence to contact your healthcare professional and Just Ask: “Could it be sepsis?”
What is sepsis?
Sepsis - sometimes confused with septicemia or blood poisoning - is the body’s over reaction to an infection or injury, which causes the immune system to attack its own organs and tissues. It affects 245,000 people every year in the UK. If not caught quickly enough, sepsis can result in organ failure, amputation and death. However, with early diagnosis it can be treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, and the outlook is often good for the vast majority of patients who proactively seek urgent medical attention!
The most crucial thing to understand is that sepsis is triggered by any infection or injury (no matter how minor either may seem). Some of the most common causes of sepsis in both adults and children are from urinary tract infections, infected cuts or bites, a wound from trauma or recent surgery and chest infections.
What do I need to look out for?
There’s no ‘one sign’ and it can be difficult to identify, especially in babies and young children. If you or your child display any of the symptoms - which spell sepsis - listed below or are just really unwell, seek immediate medical advice and Just Ask: “Could it be sepsis?”
Symptoms of sepsis in adults:
· Slurred speech or confusion
· Extreme shivering or muscle pain
· Passing no urine in 24 hours
· Severe breathlessness
· ‘I feel like I might die’*
· Skin that's mottled, very pale or slightly blue
*Many people are surprised to see ‘it feels like I’m going to die’ listed as a symptom, but this is frequently reported amongst people who have suffered from sepsis! Many people who survive say that it was the most unwell they’ve ever felt, and that it feels incredibly frightening.
The most common symptoms in children are:
· Very fast breathing
· A seizure or a ‘fit’
· Skin that's mottled, pale or slightly blue
· Rash that does not fade when you press it
· Very lethargic or difficult to wake
· Abnormally cold to touch
The most common symptoms in children under 5 years old are as above, and also include:
· Not feeding
· Vomiting repeatedly
· Not passing urine for 12 hours
Maternal and Postpartum sepsis
Pregnant women and women who have recently given birth are at risk of developing maternal or postpartum sepsis. This can be caused by complications during pregnancy or birth and invasive procedures and infections (which sometimes can be unrelated to pregnancy such as a chest infection). Some of the main causes of sepsis in this group of women are miscarriage, caesarean sections, prolonged or obstructed labour, infection following birth and mastitis.
Real life tragedy: actor Jason Watkins
Actor Jason Watkins, who many of you will know from the Film Nativity! tragically lost his 2 and a half year old daughter Maude to sepsis. This year, he has teamed up with the UK Sepsis Trust to help other families understand this deadly condition, in the hope that others can avoid the suffering his family have been through. Please take a moment to watch the video here
We really hope this blog has helped you feel empowered to understand and recognise sepsis. Please take the time to share the messages far and wide to help avoid further tragedies as a result of sepsis. All the best, The Mini First Aid Team x
To find out more, visit The UK Sepsis Trust