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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Sepsis kills more people each year than heart attacks, stroke or almost any cancer’

One in five people who develop sepsis will die, but with early recognition and good treatment, you can reduce the risk.

That is according to the HSE, which has launched a new awareness campaign this September to notify the public about this highly lethal condition.

It aims to help the public to become familiar with the signs and symptoms and to be ready to ask: could this be sepsis?

Recent figures from the HSE show that more than 12,000 people were treated for sepsis in hospital last year, with approximately 1 in 5 people dying as a result of developing sepsis.

According to the HSE, the most common symptoms are:

  • Slurred speech, mild agitation, confusion, ‘Not feeling right’
  • Extreme aches and pains in your joints, a temperature of 38֠ and higher
  • P Have not passed urine in the last 12 hours? No urge to pass urine?
  • Short of Breath. Can you finish a sentence without pause? Are your lips tinged with blue? Is your heart racing very fast? Are you persistently dizzy when you sit or stand up?
  • I feel like I am going to die
  • Skin appears mottled, blueish in colour or a new red rash that is still visible when pressed on by your finger or glass (glass test).

Sepsis in children

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Signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Abnormally cold to the touch;
  • Breathing very fast;
  • Is unusually sleepy and difficult to wake;
  • Looks mottled, bluish or pale;
  • Has a rash that does not fade when you press it;
  • Having fits or convulsions.

Also, in children under 5, watch in particular if:

  • Vomiting repeatedly;
  • Has not had a wet nappy in last 12 hours;
  • Not feeding.
Simple infection

According to the HSE, the illness usually begins as a simple infection, which can start anywhere in or on the body.

An abnormal immune response to this infection can then, in certain circumstances, overwhelm the patient and impair or destroy the function of any of the organs in the body.

Recognising when a simple infection has progressed to Sepsis can be very difficult.

Although Sepsis can impact anyone, it is more common in the very young, the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions or those with a weakened immune system.

The spokesperson continued: “For context, Sepsis kills more people each year than heart attacks, stroke or almost any cancer.

Sepsis is a global healthcare problem with an annual death toll in excess of 11 million people.

Preventing sepsis

According to Dr Michael O’Dwyer, the HSE Sepsis Programme Clinical Lead, the following play a role in preventing sepsis:

  • Healthy lifestyle;
  • Moderate exercise;
  • Good personal hygiene;
  • Good sanitation;
  • Breastfeeding when possible;
  • Avoiding unnecessary antibiotics;
  • Being vaccinated for preventable infections.

He said that early recognition and then seeking prompt treatment are “key” to survival. But, recognising Sepsis is “notoriously difficult”, and the condition can progress rapidly over hours or sometimes evolve slowly over days.”

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