More people die from sepsis each year than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined. Also known as 'blood poisoning,' sepsis signs are easily missed, but this potentially life-threatening condition can be treated if caught in the early stages.
Here, we explore how to spot sepsis so you know what to look out for, and also offer some advice on how to avoid contracting it yourself.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis occurs when the chemicals released by the immune system into the bloodstream to fight infections cause inflammation instead.
According to the UK Sepsis Trust, sepsis is the biggest cause of death in UK pregnancies, and 44,000 people in the UK lose their lives to sepsis-related infections each year. Everyone is at risk of developing sepsis, although some people are more vulnerable than others, such as those who have medical conditions that weaken the immune system, like HIV or leukaemia, the very young or very old, and those who are pregnant.
It is often difficult to diagnose sepsis as there are many different potential symptoms. However, the most common symptoms recognised in sufferers include: slurred speech or confusion, passing little to no urine in a day, having a fast respiratory rate, having mottled, bluish or discoloured skin and extreme shivering and muscle pain. Not everyone suffering with sepsis will experience all of these symptoms simultaneously though.
Tips for avoiding sepsis
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid developing sepsis.
First and foremost - get vaccinated! Sepsis can result from all kinds of infections in the body, and ensuring that your vaccinations are up to date will help to protect your from these.
Ensure that any open wounds are cleaned carefully and thoroughly. Wounds don't necessarily have to be large to be prone to infection, so be mindful with scratches, burns, and even insect bites.
Treat urinary tract infections promptly and always finish the course of antibiotics prescribed to you - even if you feel better. A quarter of recorded sepsis cases are the result of untreated urinary tract infections.
Lastly, be vigilant in avoiding infections in hospitals by frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Whilst sepsis itself is not contagious, the pathogens that may cause sepsis can be passed from person to person via contaminated utensils or clothing.
If you are under the impression that you may be affected, seek urgent medical advice. If there is a Newcross Healthcare professional to hand, certainly get a second opinion. At Newcross, our nurses and healthcare staff have the clinical expertise to recognise the signs of sepsis. However, if your symptoms are severe, dial 999.
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