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Sepsis – What You Need To Know

What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a form of blood poisoning that is caused by the immune system over-reacting to an infection or injury. The reasons for this occurring are still not fully understood. Normally the immune system should fight an infection. But in the case of Sepsis, it attacks the organs and tissues of the body.

With early diagnosis, Sepsis can be treated effectively with antibiotics. However, if not identified and treated immediately, Sepsis can cause many problems, including organ failure and death.

The current statistics for Sepsis are frightening. 25,000 children are affected by Sepsis each year in the UK. While 5 people die every hour, as a result of Sepsis. Meanwhile, 1/4 of Sepsis survivors suffer permanent, life changing after effects.


Year Cases in UK


Deaths in UK


Deaths per Hour

In terms of the number of admissions to hospital annually, Sepsis is more common than heart attacks. But very few people are aware of Sepsis, what to look out for, or what to do about it.

What are the Signs of Sepsis?

Unfortunately, Sepsis can be hard to diagnose and is too often missed by lay people and medical professionals. There are no specific signs to look out for, and the symptoms vary between adults and children.

The following signs and symptoms advice comes courtesy of The UK Sepsis Trust.

How to Spot Sepsis in Adults?

Seek medical help urgently if you (or another adult) develop any of these signs:

  • 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 discolored

How to Spot Sepsis in Children?

If a child is unwell with either a fever or low temperature, call 999 and ask: could it be Sepsis? A child could have sepsis if they are:

  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

How to Spot Sepsis in Children under 5?

  1. They are not feeding
  2. Vomiting repeatedly
  3. Has not passed urine in 12 hours

What Should I Do If I Suspect Sepsis

If you even suspect that any of the signs or symptoms above may be presenting in a casualty, and the seem to be deteriorating, then don’t hesitate and call 999 or 112 immediately.

In more minor cases such as if you are concerned about an infection, call 111 or speak to your GP. In either case, it is always worth asking “Could it be Sepsis”?

How Can I Find More about Sepsis?

The UK Sepsis Trust has lots of information on Sepsis and what you can do about it. They also organise the annual Wear Red Day to help raise awareness of Sepsis, simply by wearing something red for the day. You can dig out your red socks or T-shirt and sign up here!

For a more thorough understanding of how to spot signs and symptoms in a casualty, and how to look after them until help arrives, join one of our first aid courses. You can view the full range for all sectors using the button below.