World Sepsis Day 2023 – Be aware of sepsis symptoms and help save lives

12/09/23 – Blog

A serious and potentially life-threatening condition, sepsis is estimated to affect nearly a quarter of a million people in the UK each year.

The fact that as many as 80% of sepsis deaths could be prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment highlights the significant need for greater public awareness.

Which is exactly why World Sepsis Day is so important.


What is World Sepsis Day?

World Sepsis Day is hosted on September 13th every year, with a mission to raise awareness of the illness and its symptoms, and ultimately save lives.

Taking place as part of the UK-wide Sepsis Awareness Month in September, the day was first established in 2012 by the Global Sepsis Alliance, a not-for-profit charity that aims to provide global leadership to reduce the worldwide burden of sepsis.

According to a recent study featured in the medical journal The Lancet, sepsis is responsible for an annual worldwide death toll of 11 million individuals – which is higher than the mortality rate of cancer. Current estimates suggest that sepsis-related fatalities make up a significant one-fifth of total global deaths.

 

 

Image of the globe with heading World Sepsis Day September 13th


What is sepsis?

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning and septicaemia (its medical term), is defined by the NHS as a life-threatening reaction to an infection.

Sepsis occurs when the body’s response to an infection causes the immune system to go into overdrive and release chemicals into the bloodstream to fight the infection. This then triggers widespread inflammation which can damage organs and tissues and cause them to stop working properly.


Who is affected by sepsis?

Anyone with an infection can get sepsis, although some people are at a higher risk. These higher-risk individuals include:

  • Babies under 1, particularly if they’re born early (premature) or their mother had an infection while pregnant. In fact, sepsis is the leading cause of death for newborns globally.
  • People over 65.
  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease.
  • People with a weakened immune system, such as those who are having chemotherapy treatment or have recently had an organ transplant.
  • People who have recently had surgery or a serious illness.
  • Women who have just given birth, had a miscarriage or had an abortion.

 

 

 

Older women waving


What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis?

The signs and symptoms of sepsis can vary depending on the individual and the severity of the infection. Symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe breathlessness
  • A high temperature (fever) or low body temperature
  • A change in mental state – like confusion or disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • Chills and shivering
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Without quick treatment, sepsis can lead to organ failure and death; it is vital to access medical intervention immediately to reduce the risk of such complications.

Sepsis itself isn’t contagious, so you can’t spread it to other people. However, it is possible to spread the infections that can cause sepsis.

 

Man unconscious on floor wearing a high-vis jacket with a yellow helmet in the foreground

 

 

Women lying in bed looking at a thermometer

 

 


How to help prevent the spread of infections and reduce the risk of sepsis

There are a multitude of ways to prevent the spread of infections, with many being simple actions we can take in our day-to-day life. These include:

Regularly and properly washing your hands

You should ensure you wash your hands before and after caring for another individual, cleaning wounds or cuts, and preparing food and always after:

using the toilet

– sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose

–  touching animals

– changing nappies

– handling rubbish

– cleaning (especially in the bathroom or kitchen)

Keeping up to date with vaccines

This is especially important for babies, older people, pregnant women, children and those with weakened immune systems.

Taking antibiotics correctly

Follow the instructions and take all your prescribed antibiotics, even if you start feeling better.

Leading a healthy lifestyle

Try to manage chronic health conditions appropriately to the best of your ability, maintain a healthy weight, get the recommended amount of exercise each week, and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Monitoring any infections

If you show any signs of a new infection, or an infection seems to be getting worse, take action as soon as possible and seek medical care.

 

Person washing their hands next to a running tap

 

A selection of antibiotics

 


How is sepsis diagnosed and treated?

Sepsis is usually diagnosed by testing a person’s temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and blood. Other more detailed tests can help identify the type of infection and where it is located, such as urine or stool samples, blood pressure tests, tissue, skin or fluid tests, x-rays and ultrasounds.

Treatment for sepsis depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause but may involve antibiotics, IV fluids, oxygen therapy, medications to support organ function, and occasionally surgery. It may also involve staying in a hospital intensive care unit.

 

What should you do if you think you might have sepsis?

If you or someone you know is displaying signs of sepsis, act fast and call 999 or go to A&E.

Sepsis is a medical emergency; it is vital that you receive medical care immediately to increase the chance of a full recovery.

 

If you want more information on sepsis, head to the NHS website, or download the NHS England sepsis brochure, which can help you identify signs and symptoms.

Moreover, if you’re interested in advocating for sepsis awareness and prevention, visit The UK Sepsis Trust Website, which provides a range of avenues for participation, along with professional resources, fundraising, and volunteering opportunities.

 


Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice regarding your health and wellbeing.

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