Today is World Sepsis Day. Senga Currie, QCS Head of Care Development Scotland, explains what it is and how care providers can spot the symptoms in the people they support of a condition that kills five people every hour in the UK.
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to infection. It is sometimes referred to as septicaemia or blood poisoning.
The body attacks its own organs and tissues, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. However, with early diagnosis sepsis can be treated with antibiotics and fluids.
According to the Sepsis Trust, five people die with sepsis every hour in the UK. Diagnosis and treatment can prevent up to 80% of sepsis fatalities.
Sepsis can be hard to spot particularly in:
- People with dementia
- People with a learning disability
- People who have difficulty communicating
The life-threatening condition can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis, or a chest infection. There is no one sign, and symptoms are different for adults and children, according to the Sepsis Trust.
Symptoms in Adults
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Passing no urine in a day
- Severe breathlessness
- It feels like you are going to die
- Skin pale or mottled
If you detect even a few of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately and ask, “could it be sepsis?”
What causes sepsis?
Sepsis results from any kind of infection, most commonly from bacterial infections.
Cuts and scrapes, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and post-operative infections can all lead to sepsis.
The greatest risk factor is infection. Sepsis can impact anyone, young or old, sick, or healthy. Those with increased risk of infection include:
- People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes
- Those with weakened immune systems
- People on long-term steroids or on drugs to treat cancer or other conditions
- People who have had an organ transplant and are on anti-rejection drugs
- People over the age of 75
How is Sepsis diagnosed?
Sepsis is diagnosed by a medical professional following a physical examination, evaluation of medical history, and blood tests.
What is the treatment for Sepsis?
Sepsis is a medical emergency. It can get worse really quickly.
Early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis significantly increases an individual’s chances of survival.
It’s treated with antibiotics and IV fluids. In most cases broad-spectrum antibiotics will be administered.
Once blood tests have been performed, antibiotics that target the strain of bacterium responsible for the infection may be used.
According to the NHS website, other tests or treatments may be needed, depending on symptoms. This includes machines to help a person breathe or surgery to remove areas of infection.
How to prevent Sepsis?
The risk of developing sepsis can be reduced by practicing good hygiene, including washing hands regularly, caring for even minor cuts and scrapes using basic first aid techniques (especially keeping wounds clean), and by staying up to date on vaccinations.
You can also download our Sepsis Poster here that reminds your team of the symptoms of sepsis