Sepsis means you have a severe inflammatory reaction throughout your entire body. So serious that it can damage your organs and cause you to die. This inflammatory response can be caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite, fungus or certain toxins. These will have entered your bloodstream. Sepsis is often accompanied by meningitis, pneumonia or a bladder infection, as these diseases are caused by the same bacteria and viruses. Usually these are the pneumococci, the meningococci, the herpes virus or the influenza virus.
Anyone can get sepsis. However, certain risk groups have an increased risk of sepsis, such as:
- Very young children (0 to 2 years).
- The elderly.
- People with a compromised immune system due to a chronic disease or medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.
- People who are being, or who have been, operated on.
- People who use a catheter, IV or prosthesis.
- People who have had their spleen removed.
Sepsis can result in you suffering from:
- Muscle pain all over the body.
- Rapid breathing.
- A high fever.
- A grey and pale skin colour.
- An accelerated heartbeat.
- Confusion and drowsiness.
- Problems urinating.
- A reduced appetite.
- Dehydration symptoms.
- Symptoms associated with meningitis, pneumonia or a bladder infection.
- Too little oxygen in your blood, making you unresponsive. This is caused by a drop in blood pressure, ultimately damaging your brain and organs. This only happens in very severe cases.
There is nothing you can do about sepsis yourself. It’s important for you to quickly respond to symptoms which may indicate sepsis. A quarter of people who get sepsis die from it.
However, you can follow some advice to prevent yourself or someone else from becoming infected with a virus or bacteria which can lead to sepsis. For example, we recommend that you:
- Keep a sufficient distance from others if you have flu or cold symptoms.
- Maintain good hygiene routines. You can do this by regularly washing your hands, using your own towels and crockery and taking good care of wounds.
- Inform others about your symptoms which may indicate an infection.
You must immediately contact the emergency department or 112 if you have symptoms which correspond to the symptoms described above. You must act quickly, so don’t wait too long.
They’ll give you one or several types of antibiotics in the hospital to kill the bacteria and they’ll give you (plenty of) fluids to maintain your circulation. In some cases, you may need surgery to remove the source of the infection. If this doesn’t help, you’ll be given medication which will lower your blood pressure. You’ll be put on a ventilator if you’re not getting enough oxygen. This is often the result of pneumonia. The exact cause of your sepsis will be determined with a blood test, X-ray or CT scan.
Have you had sepsis before and have you been declared cured? Then contact your GP immediately if:
- You have breathing problems.
- You have an accelerating heart rate.
- You are having trouble urinating.
- You have a high fever or your body temperature is too low.
- You are confused and reacting differently or hardly at all.