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World Sepsis Day on 13 September: stop sepsis, save lives

Posted: 11/09/2020

Sepsis causes 11 million deaths worldwide each year and World Sepsis Day is an opportunity to unite in the fight against sepsis and raise awareness of the illness and the symptoms to be alert to.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to infection, which causes the immune system to attack the body. It is a life threatening medical emergency that needs to be treated very quickly to prevent long term consequences and/or death.

To find out more about sepsis, watch this short video


Sepsis can be hard to spot as there are lots of possible symptoms of the illness that are similar to those of other conditions like the flu or a chest infection.

Sepsis can be particularly difficult to identify in babies and young children.

As time is of the essence if sepsis is suspected, a good way of remembering the symptoms to look out for is to think of the acronym TIME:

  • Temperature (higher or lower than normal).
  • Infection (signs and symptoms of an infection such as fever, sweats/chills, shortness of breath).
  • Mental decline (confusion, tired, sleepy, floppy, difficult to rouse).
  • Extremely ill (severe pain or discomfort). 

Treatment for sepsis

When sepsis is confirmed or suspected, the ‘Sepsis Six’ protocol should be followed. This involves all of the following being given/performed within one hour of suspected sepsis or diagnosis:

  • IV fluids;
  • oxygen; 
  • antibiotics;
  • fluid balance monitoring;
  • lactate testing; and 
  • culture testing.

Short and long term consequences 

Recovering from sepsis can take time and some of the most common symptoms experienced after being discharged from hospital are:

  • general to extreme weakness and fatigue;
  • breathlessness;
  • general body pains or aches;
  • difficulty moving around;
  • difficulty sleeping;
  • weight loss, lack of appetite, food not tasting normal;
  • dry and itchy skin that may peel;
  • brittle nails; and
  • hair loss.

Some people will experience the following longer term consequences such as:

  • insomnia, difficulty getting to or staying asleep;
  • nightmares, vivid hallucinations, panic attacks;
  • disabling muscle and joint pains;
  • decreased mental (cognitive) function;
  • loss of self-esteem and self-belief;
  • organ dysfunction (kidney failure, lung problems, etc); and
  • loss of hands, arms, legs or feet (limb amputation).

The sooner sepsis is treated the less likely an individual is to develop any ongoing symptoms.

How you can help this World Sepsis Day

Visit the World Sepsis Day website for lots of information on how you can get involved. Due to Covid-19 there will be fewer opportunities to organise face-to-face events, but you can still raise awareness online by getting involved in the World Sepsis Day photo challenge and posting on social media.

To participate in the photo challenge, you can download the photo challenge material from the website linked above, print the photo board you like the best, write your name on it, take a picture, and upload it to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, using the hashtag #WorldSepsisDay and tagging @WorldSepsisDay.

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