Sepsis: 6 Signs that could save a life.

Sepsis is dangerous,  killing 44000 each year. The body’s immune system becomes over-active in response to an infection, which can lead to multiple organ failure, clotting problems and ultimately death if severe. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has just published new guidelines on how to spot and treat this deadly condition. So here is what you need to know. Doctor, Nurse or not, spotting signs can save lives. And you could be the difference.

A Way to Save Lives

A Government review This review, titled “Time to Act”, found  failings in Sepsis recognition and management.  New guidance  places a strong emphasis on early diagnosis, encouraging people to “Think: could this be sepsis”? Some common signs of sepsis can include:

  • New confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • Not producing as much urine as normal
  • Very high or very low temperatures
  • Pale or blue lips/severe skin rashes

Sepsis is a tough diagnosis. It hides behind non-specific symptoms  Diagnosis relies on identifying those at high risk. These groups include those at extremes of age, immunocompromised, pregnant and had recent surgery, amongst other factors. Severe “red flag” symptoms aid in making an early call. This helps doctors to classify patients into high risk, moderate risk and low-risk groups.

Acting early is one of the most important factors in preventing harm from sepsis. The guidance advises different management options depending upon the setting, for example in a community GP practice compared to an acute medical ward in hospital.  A robust method of assessing potentially septic patients is advised – including structured observations, early warning scores and searching for a likely source of infection. The common thread is think sepsis, ask the right questions, and act quickly. The stakes are high.

Sepsis Kills

The UK Sepsis Trust has been active recently with several campaigns to increase awareness of issues around sepsis. Several high profile individuals have unfortunately been victims of sepsis – one of these being Lord Ashcroft, a Conservative Peer. He developed sepsis and spent 19 days on Intensive Care fighting for his life. Since this he has become a champion of the cause. Lord Ashcroft’s campaign, #Ashcroft4SepsisUnited, is a fundraising campaign. He will match every £1 raised up to £250,000 with his own money to donate to the UK Sepsis Trust. This campaign will finish this week.

The UK Sepsis Trust, established in 2012 raises awareness, educates healthcare professionals and helps families and individuals who have suffered as a result of sepsis  There are around 150,000 cases of sepsis and leads to the death of over 44,000 people in the UK each year.

The UK Sepsis Trust has many other campaigns to raise awareness and educate people on what to look out for as well as support groups for those affected by sepsis. These can be found on their website.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be suffering from sepsis, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately. For more information please visit the NHS website (, or visit the UK Sepsis Trust website for details of their campaigns and support provided. And crucially, help us to help others by sharing this work.

At Trusted Medicine we are improving Public Health through education. We love what we do, but we need your help. Please share our work, help us reach more people.


Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. 


1)       “Suspected sepsis: summary of NICE guidance” BMJ 2016; 354 doi: (Published 11 August 2016)Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4030

2)      Sepsis: Pathophysiology and Clinical Management. BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 23 May 2016)Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i1585.

3)      NICE [NG51].



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About rickjh7 (3 Articles)
A doctor currently working as a locum in South Yorkshire. Clinical interests are Acute and General Medicine with a particular interest in the physiology and psychology of health and illness. I also have a keen interest in medical education.

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