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Sepsis - what are the symptoms and how can it be treated?

View profile for Claire Stockley
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Sepsis - new guidelines being published for doctors on how to deal with this deadly condition

Most people have heard of ‘sepsis’, but how many of you know exactly what causes this life threatening condition, how to spot it and what to do if you think somebody may be developing sepsis?

Who can develop sepsis?

Anybody with an infection can develop sepsis. Some people, however, are more likely to catch it than others, including:

  • babies under one year old (especially if they were born prematurely)
  • the elderly (over 75 years old)
  • people with diabetes
  • those with a weakened immune system (usually due to chemotherapy or recent organ transplant)
  • people who have recently has a serious illness or surgery
  • women who have recently given birth, had a miscarriage or abortion.

What is sepsis?

When we develop an infection our immune system usually fights it for us. However, sometimes our bodies can over react to an infection and our immune systems starts attacking our own organs and tissues. When this happens, it is known as sepsis.

What are the symptoms?

Sepsis can present like many other illnesses, so it can be difficult to spot. The symptoms are also different in children and adults.

In adults, slurred speech and confusion, extreme shivering or muscle pain, not passing urine in a day, severe breathlessness and discoloured/mottled skin are common signs of sepsis.

In children, the symptoms usually include rapid breathing, convulsions or fits, discoloured or pale skin, a rash that doesn’t fade when pressed, lack of energy and feeling abnormally cold.

When and how to treat sepsis

Sepsis is a medical emergency and if left untreated, it can lead to septic shock causing your organs to fail which can be fatal. It is vital, therefore, that if you suspect sepsis, you seek medical treatment immediately. If sepsis is caught early enough, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics and many people make a full recovery. The longer it is left without treatment, however, the more likely it is that organ failure can occur and this can have long lasting consequences for survivors.

If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered as a result of a delay in the diagnosis or treatment of sepsis call our medical negligence experts on 01616 966 229

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