How to spot sepsis

Around 50,000 people a year in the UK die from sepsis, making it more deadly than any cancer. Sepsis, which is also known as blood poisoning, is the body’s immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury.

Our immune system usually fights infections, but sometimes it attacks out own body and this is called sepsis. If not treated immediately it can lead to organ failure and death. Those who survive sometimes have to have limbs amputated. Unfortunately, as sepsis can look like flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection, it can be misdiagnosed by medical professionals. If sepsis is misdiagnosed as another condition and you suffer as a result you may be able to make a claim for medical negligence.

Spotting sepsis can be difficult as there is no one sign and symptoms are different for children and adults.

In adults, symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing of no urine in a day
  • Breathlessness
  • Skin being mottled or discoloured

A child may have sepsis if he or she:

  • Is breathing very fast
  • Has a fit or convulsion
  • Looks bluish, mottled or pale
  • Has a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • Is very lethargic
  • Feels abnormally cold to touch

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

  • Is not feeding
  • Is vomiting repeatedly
  • Has not passed urine for 12 hours

If you or a loved one are showing any of these symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention.

Sepsis manifests itself after any infection, but most commonly following pneumonia, water infections, bites cuts or burns. It cannot be passed from person to person. A report earlier this year revealed that the UK is one of the most affected countries in Europe by sepsis. Experts say it is so prevalent in the UK because overstretched hospitals are at greater risk of outbreaks.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: “This is an enormously prevalent and deadly condition that we need to take more seriously.

“With increasing stress on healthcare systems in which patients might be cared for in corridors away from the most hygienic clinical areas, then the risk of sepsis increases.

“As the NHS is increasingly under pressure to discharge patients then people first develop symptoms when they are at home.

“This data confirms sepsis is as common as heart attacks and more deadly than any cancer.”

Should you or a loved one have had sepsis misdiagnosed and suffered as a result you should remember that you have up to three years to make a medical negligence claim. This is known as the limitation period and you will not be able to bring a legal claim after this point.