Sepsis: A catastrophic killer masquerading as the flu

Sepsis: A catastrophic killer masquerading as the flu

You may have seen reports in the news last month after the tragic death of 12-month old William Mead.

Baby William died from sepsis –- sadly due to GPs and call-handlers at the 111 service misdiagnosing his symptoms.

Sepsis occurs when the body overreacts to an overwhelming infection and can swiftly become a life-threatening condition if not detected and treated appropriately.  Sepsis kills over 37,000 people in the UK each year, and leaves many others with lasting effects.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is extremely difficult to diagnose, however there will be clear signs that the casualty is becoming seriously unwell.

Sepsis is a life threatening condition that happens when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs.  Severe Sepsis leads to shock, the body’s organs fail and the casualty may die. It is vitally important to recognise symptoms early and treat promptly.

The source of the infection could be a minor injury such as a cut, from surgery or following another type of infection such as a chest infection.

Sepsis occurs in stages and if caught early, is treatable using appropriate medications such as antibiotics.

However, if sepsis goes undetected and untreated, it can quickly become life-threatening.

When sepsis becomes very severe, the body responds with a catastrophic drop in blood pressure.  This drop in blood pressure means that vital organs no longer receive a sufficient supply of blood, and therefore cannot function properly.

When this happens, the body has gone into septic shock – a medical emergency requiring immediate, specialist intervention – usually in an intensive care unit.

Sepsis signs

Who is affected by sepsis?

Anybody can develop sepsis, but the very young and the very old are more susceptible to complications from sepsis, so should always be monitored with extra care.

If there is a surgical site or injury, regularly check the wound for signs of infection.  Signs of infected wounds:

  • Red and swollen
  • Hot to touch
  • Presence of pus
  • Offensive odour
  • Excessively or increasingly painful
  • Running a temperature

Sometimes the source of sepsis is an internal infection, such as a respiratory or urinary tract infection that the body has been unable to fight.  Keep monitoring the casualty’s temperature and look out for increased pain and malaise.  Seek medical advice if concerned.

In the initial stages, symptoms of sepsis can appear to be similar to the flu and other more common illnesses and consequently the seriousness of their condition may be missed.

The UK Sepsis Trust have developed some resources highlighting six common signs of sepsis:

The key information in these resources is to be vigilant for these symptoms of a critically-ill sepsis patient:

  • Pale, mottled skin.
  • Muscular pain and rigors (shivering).
  • Slurred speech
  • Breathlessness.
  • Failure to pass urine.
  • A sense of ‘impending doom’ or a feeling that they might die.

When to get help

If you are seriously concerned about someone get help fast. If you remain worried after seeking assistance, trust your instinct and ask for further help.

First Aid for Life is an Award Winning and fully regulated First Aid training provider. Our trainers are highly experienced medical and emergency services professionals and the training will be tailored to your needs. Courses at our purpose built venue in Balham or we will come to you. Online First Aid courses also available for you to easily learn these vital skills at a time and place to suit you.

Leave a Reply

Login Form