Why we all need to recognise the symptoms of sepsis

Mon 10th Sep 2018

On World Sepsis Day (13th September), Julie Hatton of Coodes Solicitors says we all need to get better at recognising the symptoms of sepsis, to avoid more preventable deaths.

World Sepsis Day is an initiative created by the Global Sepsis Alliance with the hope that if more people know about sepsis, fewer lives will be lost.

Every year on September 13th, awareness events are organised around the world to increase public knowledge of sepsis and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Someone dies from sepsis every 3.5 seconds. It claims six million lives worldwide and 44,000 in the UK each year. NHS England recently announced a 33% increase in sepsis cases. However, it is unclear whether this is due to an actual rise, or because of incidents being recorded differently. What is clear, however, is that more lives will be saved if we all get better at recognising the symptoms of sepsis.

The team here at Coodes has first-hand experience at supporting families who have experienced sepsis and know that it can be devastating. Family members who have lost a loved one to sepsis not only face grief, but may experience financial problems as a result.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is also known as blood poisoning and occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection or injury. Our bodies will naturally fight off infection, but in some cases the body will start attacking its own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can be fatal. Death rates from sepsis have overtaken lung cancer and kills three times as many people as breast cancer.

It can affect anyone and can happen as a response to any infection or injury, although it is more likely to affect those who are most vulnerable. This includes the very young, old and those who have a compromised or weak immune system.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

There have been many cases of people not seeking medical advice or attention because they are unware of how serious sepsis is. There is no one sign to indicate that someone is suffering from sepsis. Symptoms can be masked as the flu or a cold and may affect children differently to adults.

When spotting signs in adults, the UK Sepsis Trust says we should “think S.E.P.S.I.S“:

  • 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

Get medical help

If you, or someone you know, shows early signs of sepsis it is vital you seek medical advice as quickly as possible. Calling NHS 111 will put you in touch with a medical professional who can then advise you on what to do.

If you, or someone you know, is showing more than one or more of the symptoms then call 999 or go straight to A&E.

The NHS website has more information about sepsis, treatments and recovery.

Why awareness is key

Events such as World Sepsis Day and awareness raising campaigns from organisations like the UK Sepsis Trust are important in raising awareness of a condition that has been low profile for too long. Meningitis was once a similarly little-known condition with few people recognising the symptoms. However, due to the huge amount of awareness raising over the past few years, as a society we are more knowledgeable and better at recognising the condition. I hope that the signs of sepsis will one day become as well-known as the symptoms of meningitis.

With sepsis, early treatment – ideally within an hour – is key. That means it is important that we can all recognise the key symptoms and act quickly.

Julie Hatton is a chartered Legal Executive in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team at Coodes Solicitors. She is also a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Specialist Accreditation Scheme. She can be contacted on 01326 214020 or julie.hatton@coodes.co.uk

Mon 10th Sep 2018

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