24 July 2019

Sepsis: spot the early signs and save a life.

Sepsis is a killer condition that is responsible for 46,000 deaths in the UK every year – but do you know what the signs are?

And, do you realise, that the antibiotics to fight-off minor ailments may be contributing to a growing number of sepsis cases?

Top TV soap Coronation Street helped to raise awareness of the life-changing effects of sepsis in children a year ago when 10-year-old Jack Webster picked up a minor graze while playing football. He fell ill and initially the character’s hard-to-spot symptoms were missed – by the time of the diagnosis, it was too late, and Jack lost a lower limb.

While the soap story line was fictional, it is certainly one that is repeated countrywide, says Jonathan Baker, Wilkin Chapman’s senior solicitor within the Medical Negligence team.

Citing recent NHS statistics, which reveal how twice as many people are being admitted to hospital with sepsis than three years ago, Jonathan has urged for more action to ensure the public in general are much more aware of the symptoms.

In looking into the reasons for the increase, the UK Sepsis Trust says the rise could reflect growing antibiotic resistance, but also suggests how recent awareness campaigns are working.

Jonathan says there should be no let-up in such campaigns: “In a professional capacity, myself and my colleagues have experienced incidents of delayed diagnosis in sepsis and sadly, the consequences are often debilitating or fatal. Time is pivotal.

“We have seen a big push in hospitals to raise awareness of spotting signs early when sepsis is extremely treatable. However, at an early stage the symptoms are subtle and can be mistaken for something else.

“The push for greater awareness should continue outside of hospitals, to patients, their families, and GPs. The number of deaths each year is significant, and if sepsis is picked up soon enough, it is far easier to treat and the number of deaths could reduce,” added Jonathan.

Taking advice from the UK Sepsis Trust, let’s look at the condition in more detail:

  • Sepsis is caused by your body’s immune system responding abnormally to an infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. The infection can start anywhere in your body; it may be only in one part, or it may be widespread;

  • In adults, it may feel like you have flu, gastroenteritis or a chest infection at first. Early symptoms include fever, chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and quick breathing. Symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock include feeling dizzy or faint, confusion or disorientation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin;

  • Any child who is breathing very fast, has a ‘fit’ or convulsion, or looks mottled, bluish, or pale, or has a rash that does not fade when you press it, may have sepsis. Any baby or child under 5 years old who is not feeding, vomiting repeatedly or hasn’t had a wee or wet nappy for 12 hours, might have sepsis.

For more information, please go to www.sepsistrust.org

Jonathan acts on behalf of patients (or their relatives) who have been injured through negligent medical treatment. He can be contacted by email: jonathan.baker@wilkinchapman.co.uk or by telephone on 01522 515966.

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