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What is sepsis?

Sepsis can be a serious illness. It is when the body overreacts to infection; the immune system goes over the top and causes swelling and blood clots. Uncomplicated sepsis is quite common and can be caused by infections like the flu, and it does not normally need hospital treatment. However it can lead to severe sepsis or septic shock which can be very serious.

Every year there are around 30,000 cases in the UK and the NHS say that this number is increasing and that around 35-50% of people with severe sepsis will not survive.

Uncomplicated sepsis can develop into severe sepsis when it is left untreated. Severe sepsis is when the body's response to the infection begins to interfere with vital organs. Septic shock is when the body's blood pressure will get so low that the organs will not receive enough blood. If you suspect that you may have sepsis you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. If you suspect that you have got a severe case of sepsis, you should dial 999.

Symptoms of sepsis include a high temperature, fast heart rate, fast breathing and confusion. Symptoms of severe sepsis or septic shock include low blood pressure, dizziness when standing, change in mental state (confusion and disorientation), vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and clammy and pale skin.

Uncomplicated sepsis can usually be treated at home with a course of antibiotics. Severe cases will require a visit to intensive care. There are many treatments the hospital may use to help you fight severe sepsis - what they do will depend on the severity and organs affected.

Early detection is your best chance of avoiding severe sepsis. If you notice any of the symptoms do not hesitate in consulting your GP. If it is detected early you could get through only needing antibiotics, but if it is left untreated it could develop into a serious condition that, sadly, can be life-threatening.

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