Published September 2023
Sepsis occurs when the immune system creates an extreme overreaction to an infection, causing harm to the body’s own tissues and organs, and as a result, can pose a severe risk to life.
Sepsis cannot be transmitted from one person to another. It can be tricky to spot and swift medical action is always necessary. Some common root causes of sepsis include lung infections, bladder infections and skin infections, however any infection can cause sepsis and sometimes it is not obvious where the infection is coming from.
September is Sepsis awareness month with the 13th September being World Sepsis Day. Our private GPs here at Concierge Medical know that through raising awareness and sharing information about what to spot and how to act, lives can be saved.
The statistics for sepsis are shocking:
- every 3 seconds someone in the world dies of sepsis1
- 48,000 people on the UK lose their lives through sepsis related illnesses every year2
- An estimated sepsis related deaths account for almost 20% of global deaths3
- Mortality rate of sepsis is high – ranging from around 17% age 16-19 and up to 64% in those over 854
Some people are more at risk for developing sepsis than others. Anyone over the age of 65, very young children, anyone on immunosuppressive drugs, anyone that has had recent surgery or a serious illness, women who are pregnant or have recently given birth and diabetics are all at higher risk. However, everyone potentially is at risk of sepsis.
Sepsis can be difficult to spot as the symptoms can be non-specific, but any of these symptoms should be seen as a medical emergency, particularly if there are multiple symptoms:
- Slurred speech, disorientation or confusion
- Clammy or mottled skin, a new rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it
- Extreme shivering in adults
- Severe breathlessness/rapid breathing or blue lips
- A weak or high pitched cry in infants which is not like their normal cry
- Drowsiness in adults or a child that is difficult to wake
- Lack of urine output (24hrs for adults / 12hrs for children under 5)
- Rapid heart rate
Any of the above symptoms should result in an immediate 999 call. It is imperative that this is done so that treatment can begin asap to prevent any further deterioration. If sepsis is identified and treated early, the likely outcome is much better.
Some cases of sepsis are not obvious and can be hard to spot in anyone that finds it hard to communicate for example:
- Babies and young children
- Those with dementia
- Those with a learning disability
If you have any worries about ANY infection you have or are simply feeling unwell/not yourself without the above 999 signs, then please contact your concierge doctor for further assessment and advice.
References 1 and 2: The UK Sepsis Trust https://sepsistrust.org/about/
Reference 3: Global, regional, and national sepsis incidence and mortality, 1990–2017: analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32989-7
Reference 4: Epidemiology of severe sepsis occurring in the first 24 hrs in intensive care units in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, Padkin, Goldfrad et al: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14501964/
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