Today (September 13) is World Sepsis Day. For me, it’s a day where I reflect back on the three times my grandfather’s cellulitis infection developed into Sepsis. It kept him in hospital for long periods of time during the last three years of his life, and each time chipped away at his health and his emotions until he no longer felt like he could go home unless he was absolutely ready. He never got to go home, Sepsis wasn’t his cause of death but I think it contributed to it. It’s still a sore subject for me, but I think everyone needs to know more about Sepsis so that the outcomes for Sepsis patients are improved.
Sepsis happens as a result of an overreaction by the immune system to infection or injury (Sepsis Trust, 2020 https://sepsistrust.org/about/about-sepsis/faqs/). Instead of fighting off the infection, the immune system begins to target our organs and tissues and if left untreated, Sepsis can cause organ failure or result in death (Sepsis Trust, 2020 https://sepsistrust.org/about/about-sepsis/faqs/). Sepsis symptoms can appear to look like another infection – like the flu or a chest infection. They also develop from existing wounds or infections: urine infections, cellulitus, surgical wounds, bites or cuts to name a few (Sepsis Trust, 2020 https://sepsistrust.org/about/about-sepsis/faqs/).
Signs and symptoms differ in adults and children, and anyone can develop Sepsis – it is a condition that does not discriminate on age or the health conditions that people have. However, there are groups of people who are more likely to develop Sepsis: the very young or old, diabetics, being on steroids long-term, an organ transplant recipient, those who are malnourished, people who have serious liver disease, immunocompromised people, those who have had surgical-related infections or complications, or those who are pregnant or have recently given birth.
The acronym you need to remember is ‘SEPSIS’:
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Passing no urine in a day
- Severe breathlessness
- It feels like you’re dying
- Skin mottled or discoloured.
However, children have a different criteria that you can find out on the Sepsis Trust (https://sepsistrust.org/about/about-sepsis/) website. The quicker you get help for a Sepsis patient, the more likely they are to recover. The earlier the diagnosis, the quicker antibiotics can be prescribed and administered.
Patients who recover from Sepsis can have difficulties once they’ve recovered from the acute phase. When they eventually are discharged from hospital, they may not feel 100% after their stay. Sepsis survivors can feel suffer from a variety of physical, psychological and emotional problems during the recovery process and this is called Post-Sepsis Syndrome (Sepsis Trust, 2020 https://sepsistrust.org/get-support/support-for-survivors/post-sepsis-syndrome/). If you have a patient, or know someone who is suffering from Post-Sepsis Syndrome, you can point them to the Sepsis Trust website and recommend the support groups they run. The groups have even gone online now.