About Sepsis

What is sepsis?

Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally our immune system fights infection – but sometimes, for reasons we don’t yet understand, it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Yet with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms

Sepsis can initially look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection. There is no one sign, and symptoms present differently between adults and children.

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 discoloured

How to spot sepsis in children

If your child is unwell with either a fever or very low temperature (or has had a fever in the last 24 hours), call 999 and just ask: could it be sepsis?

A child may have sepsis if he or she:

  1. Is 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

A child under 5 may have sepsis if he or she:

  1. Is not feeding
  2. Is vomiting repeatedly
  3. Has not passed urine for 12 hours

25,000

children are affected by sepsis each year in the UK

1/4

of all sepsis survivors suffer permanent, life-changing after effects

5

people are killed by sepsis every hour in the UK