Six signs of Sepsis – essential information for every parent

Last Updated on : 12th March 2016

Six signs of Sepsis


Sepsis is a devastating and extremely serious condition that affects over 150,000 people and kills over 44,000 people in the UK every year; it is often responsible for brain damage and amputations. Sepsis has recently had considerable publicity following the extremely sad case of William Mead and the catalogue of errors that led to his death. The enquiry highlighted how difficult Sepsis is to diagnose and the need for a public awareness campaign to alert people to look out for tell-tale signs and symptoms.

Although Sepsis is extremely difficult to spot, there are usually clear signs that someone is becoming seriously unwell. This article aims to flag key warning signs that someone you love could have Sepsis.

Sepsis is a common and potentially life-threatening condition where, following an infection, the body’s immune system over reacts; resulting in widespread inflammation, swelling and blood clots. This leads the body to go into septic shock, causing a dramatic decrease in blood pressure which interrupts the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. Sepsis needs to be treated quickly and aggressively in hospital and is sadly often responsible for amputations, brain damage and deaths. It is vitally important to recognise symptoms early and treat promptly.

One of the most common ways of developing Sepsis is following an operation or injury where the wound becomes infected, or as a secondary infection following an illness such as a chest infection or septic throat. Sepsis often follows on from Meningitis and some of the symptoms are similar.

Always regularly check wound sites following injuries or surgical procedures. If the wound becomes hot, itchy, swollen or red – you should seek medical advice promptly as this can be an early sign of infection and they should receive prompt and potent antibiotics to treat the infection and prevent it spreading.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis

Unfortunately early Sepsis can be a difficult condition to recognise and often takes a while to diagnose, during which the casualty deteriorates rapidly. There is a major campaign to raise awareness of possible early signs as the sooner it is identified and treatment started the better the outcome for the patient.

There are 6 key signs and symptoms that we are encouraged to look out for and they are listed in the chart below.

The Sepsis Trust has issued the guidance below to help parents and child carers quickly recognise the signs and symptoms in children:

Six signs of Sepsis

Sepsis can be hard to recognise at first as early symptoms are similar to flu and other common illnesses, they are also similar to Meningitis.

Look out for:

  • Pale, mottled skin.
  • Muscle pain and shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Breathlessness
  • Failure to pass any urine
  • A sense of ‘impending doom’ or a feeling that they might die

When to go to get medical help:

If someone is getting worse and you are worried.

If they are seriously unwell and have some of the above symptoms

meningitis & septicaemia-01

If you are sent home from the hospital or GP Surgery and the casualty is getting worse. Return again. Trust your instincts and tell them you are worried!

Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life

It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit: or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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