Public advised to heed the symptoms of sepsis

To coincide with World Sepsis Day, the HSE is encouraging everyone to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms of Sepsis, and most importantly to ask the question ‘Could it be Sepsis?’

Sepsis can develop from any infection and can affect anyone but is more common in young people, the elderly, people with pre-existing medical conditions or those with a weakened immune system. Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose as it can be easily confused with other conditions in the early stages of infection.

“The most effective way to reduce death from sepsis is by prevention; good sanitation, personal hygiene, healthy eating, exercising moderately, breastfeeding, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics and vaccination against vaccine-preventable infections," advised Yvonne Young of the HSE National Sepsis Team.

“The next most effective way is through early recognition and treatment. However, this is not always straightforward. Sepsis evolves over time and the pace of development depends on each individual patient’s health status, their genetic response to infection and the characteristics of the infection.”

The most commonly reported symptoms of sepsis include: slurred speech, confusion, excessive drowsiness; excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, confusion; pain or discomfort in the muscles or joints, passing very little or no urine; severe breathlessness, a racing heart, shivering, fever, feeling very cold; skin changes pale, cold, discoloured skin or a rash that won’t fade when pressed on.

In children the signs to look out for include: abnormally cold to touch; skin looks mottled, bluish or pale; breathing very fast; is unusually sleepy and difficult to wake; has a rash that does not fade when you press it; having fits or convulsions.

Also in children under five: not feeding; vomiting repeatedly; has not had a wet nappy in the last 12 hours.

Nora Cunningham lost her baby son Eoghan to sepsis shortly before his first birthday. Nora's message is “Look after your family, use good hand hygiene, stay as healthy as you can and make sure vaccinations are up to date. Know the signs and symptoms of sepsis, particularly if your loved one has an infection, and as a parent if you feel your child isn’t right, they probably are not alright, seek urgent help, don’t wait and it might save their life."

"Too late"

Former Ireland international footballer Stephen Carr lost his mother, a fit and healthy 64 year old, to sepsis. “My mam just had the normal flu, wasn’t really shaking it off.” Over the course of a week, Stephen’s mother deteriorated and by the time she got to hospital she was diagnosed with sepsis.

“Doctors did everything they could, but it was just too late, she had sepsis going on. I think you have to question everything if you’re not getting better. The question is “Have I got sepsis now?”

For more information about sepsis and how to recognise the signs here.