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Sepsis: Just The Facts

Sepsis is when your body overreacts to an infection and starts to damage its own tissues and organs. It is rare, but can be fatal if not treated quickly. Anyone can get sepsis, so it’s important to be aware of the signs.

You should call 999 or visit A&E immediately if you think you or someone else might have it.

What are the symptoms?

It can be hard to spot as there are lots of possible symptoms in older children and adults, including:

  • acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense
  • blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue – on brown or black skin, the blueness may be easier to see on the lips, tongue or gums, under the nails or around the eyes
  • a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis
  • difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast

In babies and younger children, sepsis can show up as any of the above symptoms as well as:

  • a weak, high-pitched cry that’s not like their normal cry
  • not responding like they normally do, or not being interested in feeding or normal activities
  • being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake

Not everyone with sepsis will experience all of these symptoms, so call 999 if you or someone else experience any of them.

What causes sepsis?

Usually when you get an infection, the immune system keeps it limited to one part of the body. But in people with weakened immune systems, or those with a severe infection, the infection can spread to other parts of the body.

As the immune system fights the infections it causes swelling throughout the body, which can limit blood flow and reduce the amount of oxygen that can get to important organs. This is why sepsis needs to be treated very quickly.

Sepsis always results from another infection, which can be anywhere on the body, you can’t catch it from another person.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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