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Awareness around signs of sepsis encouraged

 A man and a woman standing in front of a railing outside with the sea behind them.

“More people die of sepsis than stroke, yet not many people have any idea of the signs, so we need to be more aware,” according to Aisling O’Rourke whose dad John died from sepsis in November 2020.

“When my dad had a stroke in 2018, I knew what it was because I had grown up seeing the ads showing you the signs. Yet when my father died at the age of 67 as a result of sepsis, he lost his life to a condition which is not always fatal if it is caught on time. I want to do what I can to prevent other families from suffering the heartbreak of losing a loved one to sepsis.”

Aisling has been successful in recent days in securing agreement from Offaly County Council to light Tullamore Town Hall red on Wednesday, September 13th, World Sepsis Awareness Day, which she says is to honour her father “and all those who have lost their lives to sepsis and those who live with the effects of sepsis.”

 Sepsis is a life-threatening condition caused by an infection that affects the organs and kills 1 in 5 people who develop it. The condition kills more people each year than heart attacks, stroke or almost any cancer.

“It’s extremely important to recognise the symptoms of sepsis and ask – could this be sepsis?,” according to Dr Michael O’Dwyer, Clinical Lead, HSE National Sepsis Programme. Speaking ahead of World Sepsis Day, Dr O’Dwyer said that the HSE was encouraging people to learn about the signs and symptoms of the condition, as early recognition and treatment are important.

Anyone with an infection can be at risk of sepsis, even if they are taking antibiotics. Those most at risk are aged 75 or over, have certain medical conditions such as cancer, COPD, diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, have a weak immune system or are very young children. Maternal sepsis is rare but can develop during pregnancy or up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the birth, a miscarriage or an abortion. This is because pregnancy causes changes in the immune system that make individuals more likely to get infections.

Dr O’Dwyer adds that it’s also important to “reduce your risk of developing it in the first place. There are things people can do to reduce their risk of sepsis, such as good personal hygiene, keeping up to date with your vaccinations, taking antibiotics as prescribed, and following medical advice recommended for chronic conditions.”

Dr O’Dwyer notes that the signs and symptoms of sepsis in children include “very fast breathing; fits or convulsions; mottled skin (irregular colour) bluish or pale; a rash that does not fade when you press it; if the child is unusually sleepy and difficult to wake; unusually cold when you touch them or has had no pee for more than 12 hours."

"If the child is under 5 years, the advice is to watch in particular if they are not feeding, if they are vomiting repeatedly and or dry when they are changed and they have not had a wet nappy for the previous 12 hours.”

Signs of sepsis:

  • S: Slurred speech, new confusion, too sick to communicate, drowsiness.
  • E: Extreme shivering, muscle aches, fever. 
  • P: Has not passed urine in the last 12 hours and does not feel like passing urine.
  • S: Shortness of breath, lips tinged with blue, feels like your heart is racing, dizzy when you sit or stand.
  • I: I feel like I'm going to die. 
  • S: Skin mottled and discoloured, new rash that is still visible when pressed on with a clear glass (glass test).