29 year old mum of two Jenny Taft hadn’t heard of sepsis until a few years ago. Then her son nearly died from the condition, which drove her to find out more.
Jenny said, “I woke up one day and noticed that my son, Freddie, wasn’t himself. He was really lethargic and could barely move. My partner and I were terrified. Luckily I’d heard of sepsis because I’d read Melissa Mead’s story in the papers and watched her video, and I knew what had happened to her son William. Having heard about Melissa’s story, I thought - this could be sepsis. Thankfully after a quick trip to the GP, Freddie was referred to our local hospital where he was put on antibiotics and luckily went on to make a speedy recovery.”
Lots of terms have been used to describe sepsis. The word “sepsis” is Greek and has existed for thousands of years. However, an official definition didn’t emerge until 1991. A range of terms, from “blood poisoning” to “septicaemia”, have been bandied around to describe the same thing. This could be why, despite being described as a ‘silent killer’ and killing around 37,000 people in the UK every year, so few people seem to know what it is or who it affects.
Here are a number of things Jenny wants everyone to know about sepsis:
So, what actually is it?
Sepsis is basically when your immune system goes into overdrive to combat septicaemia, a bacterial infection of the blood.
The over-reaction of the immune system to try to protect your body causes symptoms like fever, a rapid heart rate and in really bad cases, organ failure. Find out how to spot it here.
Who can get it?
Sepsis can affect people of all ages, but over 65s and under 5s tend to be at most risk.
You’re also at a higher risk of sepsis if you have a weaker immune system (because of a medical condition or medical treatment) or if you have wounds or injuries.
How common is it?
There are around 123,000 cases of sepsis a year in England.
How to minimise chances of getting sepsis?
Work is underway to treat and screen for sepsis faster and to make sure that healthcare professionals know how to check for signs and symptoms of the condition. However, there’s a lot you can do to prevent it from occurring. Here are our top tips:
- Talk to your friends and family about the signs and symptoms of sepsis – especially if they look after elderly relatives, or have young children – so they know what to do if a loved one develops sepsis.
- Get your flu jab. The vaccination can prevent respiratory infections that sometimes turn septic.
- Treat urinary tract infections promptly. Many sepsis cases are caused by common urinary tract infections.
- Clean skin wounds properly. Many cases of sepsis follow a skin infection so make sure you disinfect wounds and scrapes fully to avoid infection.