Sepsis is an extremely rare yet dangerous condition that can affect many organs and in some cases the entire body. Sepsis is often the result of a complication of an infection. The immune system, which usually protects you from illnesses and infections can have an adverse reaction. The immune system releases chemicals to fight the infection however, in some cases, it releases these chemicals throughout the entire body, which causes sepsis and sometimes septic shock.
What Causes Sepsis?
Sepsis is typically caused by bacterial infections but, can also be as a result of viruses and fungal infections too. Sepsis is commonly referred to as Septicaemia. However, septicaemia and blood poisoning are when there is an invasion of bacteria in the bloodstream. Sepsis can occur without blood poisoning or Septicaemia.
Sepsis can occur in anyone who has suffered an infection or injury that causes an infection. However, certain people have a higher risk of developing sepsis, including those;
- With a weakened immune system
- Who have had surgery
- The very young
- The elderly
- Those with a serious illness
If not detected early, sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
5 Warning Signs of Sepsis in Children
- The child is having a fit or breathing extremely quickly
- The child is exhausted and has difficulty waking up
- Feel very cold to the touch and has a blue or pale complexion
- Has a rash that doesn't fade to the touch
- Has a temperature below 36C or a temperature over 39C (38C in babies under three months old)
5 Warning Signs of Sepsis in Adults
- An abnormally high or low body temperature
- Breathlessness or breathing very fast with an elevated heart rate
- Feeling very cool to the touch, shivering and having cold, clammy skin
- Feeling confused, disorientated a low level of consciousness with slurred speech
- Having nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and lower than normal urine production.
Diagnosis of Sepsis
If you notice any of the symptoms above, then it is vital to seek urgent medical assistance. A doctor will subsequently diagnose sepsis through a blood test and other measurements such as your heart rate, blood pressure and temperature.
To understand what type of infection has caused the sepsis, doctors may conduct further tests such as taking a urine, stool or saliva sample. They may take a sample of tissue from a wound, if you have one, or conduct an imaging study such as an ultrasound, CT or X-ray.
Treatment of Sepsis
The treatment plan that you are given will depend on how early the sepsis has been detected.
If sepsis is diagnosed early:
Doctors will usually let sepsis be treated at home, with a course of antibiotics to rid the body of the infection. It is important to monitor the condition carefully and seek medical assistance if the situation worsens.
If sepsis results in septic shock or severe sepsis;
People with severe sepsis or septic shock will be hospitalised, and it will usually require admission to an intensive care unit for careful observation and medical support. Severe sepsis and septic shock can make people extremely ill and could be fatal if it affects vital organs in the body.
Recovering from Sepsis
Sepsis can be treatable, and people can have a full and quick recovery if it is detected and treated early. However, the recovery time will vary depending on the person's general health, the treatment they were given and the severity of sepsis.
Occasionally sepsis can lead to post-sepsis syndrome which are long-term problems including lethargy, weakness, chest pains and swollen or painful joints.