Can You Spot the Early Warning Signs of Sepsis?

The majority of the British public struggle to identify all of the early warning signs of sepsis, according to a national survey by Manchester-based law firm JMW.

Three-quarters (75%) of the 1,057 people questioned by clinical negligence experts JMW said they either didn’t know or were unsure of what the signs of sepsis are. When asked to select the early warning signs from a list, just half (50%) knew that mottled or discoloured skin was a sign, 39% knew about extreme shivering, 35% identified muscle pain as a symptom, and 34% knew that confusion was a signal for sepsis.

Respondents also struggled to correctly identify the remaining symptoms, with just 27% knowing that extreme breathlessness was a sign, 21% knowing that not urinating for at least one day can be a symptom, and only 17% recognising that slurred speech can indicate sepsis.

Eddie Jones, partner and head of clinical negligence at JMW, said: “Following the results of the survey we are concerned about the low numbers of the general public in the UK who could correctly spot the early warning signs of sepsis.

“Any delay in diagnosis can cause increasingly dangerous and long-lasting effects to the afflicted person, and so it is imperative to raise awareness of sepsis and how to identify the symptoms. This could help to ensure early medical intervention for thousands of patients who would otherwise have died or been seriously injured.”


Spotting the Early Warning Signs in Children


Survey respondents were also asked to identify the warning signs of sepsis in children, who exhibit slightly different symptoms than adults. Participants correctly identified fever (51%), having mottled, bluish or pale skin (47%), being lethargic or difficult to wake up (45%), and breathing fast (34%) as signs of sepsis in children.

Only 26% knew that convulsions were a symptom, 23% knew that a rash that doesn’t fade when pressed was a sign, 22% correctly identified a fever, 20% knew that feeling unusually cool to the touch could indicate the condition, and 14% knew that a very low temperature was a symptom.

JMW has partnered with the UK Sepsis Trust to raise awareness by sponsoring the inclusion of a sepsis awareness leaflet in the Bounty Newborn Pack that is given to all new parents of babies delivered in an NHS hospital.

Eddie said: “From our work with the UK Sepsis Trust, we know that raising public awareness of the illness is an ongoing and important mission. To help, we have produced a downloadable poster and an online video animation to give parents, guardians, and other child carers the information they need.”

Melissa Mead, national projector co-ordinator at the UK Sepsis Trust, says: “Sepsis is a terrifying, quick, and deadly condition - not knowing the signs and symptoms could mean the difference between life and death. The results of this survey highlights how much more work there is to be done on raising awareness of sepsis amongst the public.”

In the UK, around 44,000 people lose their life to sepsis every year.

Marvin Zick