Building a Better Health Service

Your Health

Campaign aims to increase knowledge of sepsis symptoms

 A man and woman standing in front of a railing with the sea and a hilly shoreline in the background.

 “At no stage in my life did anyone ever mention the signs and symptoms of sepsis – and I really wish I had known them,” according to Aisling O’Rourke, whose father, John, passed away from sepsis in November 2020. Aisling is now sharing her story to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the condition, encouraging people to ask ‘could it be sepsis?’

A new HSE public information campaign was recently launched to highlight the signs and symptoms of the life-threatening condition. Recent research carried out among the general public shows that while awareness of the word sepsis is strong, fewer than 1 in 2 people are aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition. It also found that symptoms of sepsis are easy to dismiss, miss or mistake for something else. The new campaign aims to increase knowledge of the signs and symptoms, increase understanding of the risk of sepsis, and encourage people to seek urgent medical attention if they suspect sepsis.

For Aisling, it is important to note that “amongst the public, we don’t know enough about sepsis. We have an assumption that we have to have had surgery or a bad cut. But any infection could become sepsis. And that’s why it’s so important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and to know that if you suspect sepsis, call 999 or 112. It’s a medical emergency in the exact same way as a stroke or a heart attack. Never be afraid to ask ‘could this be sepsis?’

Dr Michael O’Dwyer, Clinical Lead, HSE Sepsis Programme, explains that the new campaign is an “important addition to our communications output in increasing knowledge of sepsis among the public."

"Sepsis can arise out of any infection, at any time. The signs and symptoms to look out for include exhaustion, quick-breathing, shivers and pains and confusion; a feeling that you’re going to die at the time and not passing urine. Sepsis is a serious condition that requires urgent treatment. It’s also important to know that symptoms can be different in adults and children so I’d encourage people to visit to learn more about the signs and symptoms.”

Watch Aisling outline her story

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).