Recognising sepsis

Graphic showing sepsis that affects the blood

Facts about sepsis

  • Sepsis used to be known as blood poisoning or septicemia
  • Sepsis is what happens when your body reacts badly to an infection
  • Sepsis is an infection in your blood
  • Sepsis is very dangerous
  • If you don’t get the right care for sepsis important body parts can become damaged and you can even die
  • If you have sepsis it is important to get treatment quickly
  • Sepsis can be hard to spot as there are lots of possible symptoms
  • Anyone can get sepsis but if you have a weakened immune system you may be more likely to get sepsis
  • People with a learning disability may be more at risk of sepsis. This may be because they have other health issues, difficulties with communication, and people may not recognising the signs of sepsis early

Non-urgent advice: How to know if you have sepsis?

Someone who really knows you will be able to recognise when you are becoming unwell, even if they aren’t quite sure what is making you unwell.

Many people feel unwell from time to time, they usually start to feel better after a few days.  Some people develop infections that their body can fight and get rid of. They will sometimes need antibiotics.

It is very important that you know the signs of sepsis.

If you are concerned about someone being unwell you should trust your instincts.

If you or anyone else have any of the following symptoms you should call 999 or go to A&E and ask if it could be sepsis. The earlier you get treatment the better.

Someone who is on antibiotics for an infection should start to get better, if they start to get worse then sepsis should be considered.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of sepsis

Sepsis can have lots of different symptoms and they may not be very specific.

If you are concerned about someone being unwell you should trust your instincts.

If you or anyone else have any of the following symptoms you should call 999 or go to A&E and ask if could be sepsis. The earlier you get treatment the better.

  • Finding it hard to breathe or breathing very fast
  • Feeling or acting confused.
  • Feeling sleepier than usual or being hard to wake up.
  • Not wanting to, or not being able to do the things that you usually do.
  • Difficulty communicating as you usually would.
  • Difficulty walking or moving as you usually would.
  • Not peeing as much as usual.
  • Feeling very hot, very cold or shivering.
  • Not eating as you usually would
  • Being sick
  • Feeling very poorly
  • A rash that does not go away when you roll a glass over it
  • Someone who is on antibiotics for an infection should start to get better, if they start to get worse then sepsis should be considered.

People who have had sepsis say that it was the worst they have ever felt.

Explore more below about when to phone 111 and when to phone 999

When to call 111?

image of phone with phone 111 number on it
graphic show someone hot and sweaty face

Skin that feels hot, cold or sweaty

Feeling very hot or very cold or shivering

Feeling really poorly

Feeling sleepy when you are not normally tired

Not going for a wee all day

Aching muscles

Having a poorly stomach

Being sick

Have swelling, redness or pain around a cut or wound

When to phone 999

graphic showing phone 999

Skin that looks lighter than normal

Your skin, lips or tongue might look blue

Red patches on the skin or a rash that does not go when you roll a clear glass over it

Feeling confused

Changes in speech or levels of confusion. Difficulty in communicating as you usually would 

Feeling like you can’t breathe or breathing fast

More resources/links on sepsis

You can read the NHS England Easy Read Information about sepsis.

You can find out more from the NHS about the symptom of sepsis.

The UK Sepsis Trust has more information about sepsis on their homepage.