We were stunned over the weekend to learn that one of our clients died, the day after we visited, having been discharged from hospital with sepsis. It has left us feeling rather lacking in knowledge in what to look out for. We have been reassured that sepsis can be incredibly difficult to spot even when in hospital.
Sepsis is a life threatening reaction to an infection. We often know it as blood poisoning or septicaemia. When we have an infection the body releases chemicals into our system to fight it. With sepsis these chemicals are out of balance and the immune system overreacts to the infection causing it to attack organs and tissue. Whilst any type of infection can cause sepsis the most common are pneumonia, urinary tract infection, infection of the blood stream, infection in the gastric system. With older individuals it is particular important to ensure prompt treatment to any of these issues. We all know how a urinary tract infection can quickly impact on someone's capability to make decisions!
There are three stages to sepsis; sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock.
Sepsis is life threatening. Let's not beat about the bush. If it's not caught it can kill. Symptoms can be vague. Acting confused, slurred speech or not making sense; blue, pale or blotchy, skin, lips or tongue; a rash that doesn't fade when you roll a glass over it, extreme pain, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or breathing very fast could all be indicators that sepsis is causing problems. Symptoms can resemble flu or a cold or chest infection. It is particularly hard to spot in people who already have these symptoms with other conditions.
It is of the utmost importance that if you suspect sepsis you make sure medical attention is sought immediately. Sepsis does not need long to cause catastrophic damage to the body.
This is something that we can all help with. If you are worried and do not feel that anyone is taking notice make them. You can ask medical teams to test for sepsis which can be done with blood tests, scans and cultures to identify whether it is present. If you are worried listen to that voice in your head and do something about it.