According to NHS figures more than 100,000 people per year in the UK, are admitted to hospital with sepsis in addition around 37,000 people will die as a result of the condition.

There is no doubt that it is a potentially life-threatening condition and it is triggered by an infection.

If not treated quickly, sepsis can eventually lead to multiple organ failure and death.

From a CFR or First Responder perspective, the symptoms of sepsis can easily be confused with other conditions but there are certain indicators that set it apart.

Has the patient recently been discharged from hospital? Sepsis may have developed after surgery and as a result of a drip or catheter being connected .

With sepsis, the body’s immune system works harder and harder which sets off a chain reaction, presenting widespread inflammation, swelling and blood clotting. Common sites of sepsis infection are the lungs, urinary tract, abdomen, and pelvis.

Apart from visual inflammation and swelling, there could be a significant decrease in blood pressure.*

What can a CFR or First Responder see?

  • a high temperature (fever)

  • chills and shivering

  • a fast heartbeat

  • fast breathing

These symptoms usually develop very quickly.

There is also a more severe sepsis called septic shock, this is when blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level. It can develop whilst the CFR is on scene but can develop within hours.

The patient could;

  • feel dizzy or faint

  • display a change in their mental state, be confused or disorientated

  • develop diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting

  • have slurred speech

  • suffer from severe muscle pain

  • experience severe breathlessness

  • have difficulty in urinating, this could be not going to the toilet for a whole day

  • feel cold, clammy and pale may be with mottled skin

  • have loss of consciousness

As with all CFR or First Responder call outs, treat what you see, don’t diagnose.

* decrease in blood pressure can mean a reduction in blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys is reduced.