Sepsis affects 30 million people worldwide each year. It is the leading cause of death for infants and children around the world, despite the fact that early diagnosis followed by broad spectrum antibiotics and IV fluids is all that is required to save a life. There were 10,000 patients diagnosed with Sepsis in Ireland in 2015 and it leaves many survivors with life-changing disabilities.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s extreme and life-threatening response to an infection. The body releases chemicals into the blood stream to fight the infection but these chemicals trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Sepsis ranges from less to more severe. The goal is to identify and treat sepsis in its earliest stage, before it becomes more dangerous. As sepsis worsens, blood flow to vital organs, such as brain, heart and kidneys, becomes impaired and blood clots can form, leading to organ failure and tissue death. In the most severe cases, blood pressure drops, multiple organs fail, and the patient can die quickly from septic shock. Sepsis can progress very rapidly and is always a medical emergency.

What causes sepsis?

Sepsis is always triggered by an infection. Bacterial, viral or fungal infections anywhere in your body can cause sepsis, although bacterial infections are the most common cause. An infection occurs when germs enter a person’s body and multiply.

The infection can begin anywhere bacteria or other infectious agents can enter the body, including a scraped knee, a tooth abscess, or from a more serious medical problem such as appendicitis, pneumonia, meningitis, or a urinary tract infection.

Who can get sepsis?

Sepsis does not discriminate. It affects young and old, rich and poor, sick and healthy. Anyone can get sepsis at any time as a bad outcome from an infection.

Those at higher risk of developing sepsis include:

  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Babies and very young children
  • Elderly people
  • People with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and kidney or liver disease
  • People suffering from a burn or wound
  • People who have invasive devices, such as intravenous catheters or breathing tubes

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

Sepsis presents itself as a combination of symptoms, rather than a single sign. If two of the following signs are present, seek immediate medical assistance:

  • A fever above 38.5 degrees Celsius or a temperature below 36 degrees Celsius
  • Heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
  • Breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
  • Probable or confirmed infection

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