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The nurse said ‘how long has your child been like this?’: HSE urges awareness of sepsis signs and symptoms

Sepsis is difficult to diagnose and can be confused with other conditions early on.

THE HSE IS urging people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection. 

One in five people who develop sepsis will die, according to the HSE, but with early recognition and treatment its risk can be reduced. 

Sepsis can develop from infection and can affect anyone, but is more common very young people, people a pre-existing condition, the elderly or those with a weak immune system. 

Ahead of World Sepsis Day on 13 September, HSE says that sepsis is difficult to diagnose and that it can be confused with other conditions early on. 

One mother who shared her daughter Molly’s story is Audrey McGahon from Co Clare. (Watch their story below)

In 2018, Molly, then 12 years old came home from school complaining of a pain in her back, had a very high temperature and was sleepy.

Having been to the GP, Audrey decided to go to the ED as Molly was getting sleepier and experiencing increased pain. It was only when Molly got to hospital a few hours later that septic shock was diagnosed by a nurse who recognised the symptoms.

The most effective way to reduce death from sepsis is by prevention, says Dr Martina Healy, National Clinical Lead, HSE Sepsis Programme.

This includes good sanitation, personal hygiene, eating healthily, exercising moderately, breastfeeding and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics. 

“The next most effective way is early recognition and treatment,” said Dr Healy. 

“This is not simple. Sepsis evolves over time and the pace of its development depends on the patient’s general health status, their genetic response to infection and the characteristics of the infection,” she said. 

A patient’s characteristics like age, existing medical conditions and medications are only one aspect of that pattern, Dr Healy said. 

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Source: HSE Ireland/YouTube

The most commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech, confusion, excessive drowsiness
  • Excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, confusion
  • Pain or discomfort in the muscles or joints, passing very little or no urine
  • Severe breathlessness, a racing heart, shivering, fever, feeling very cold
  • Skin changes like pale, cold, discoloured skin or a rash that won’t fade when pressed on

In children sepsis signs to look out for include:

  • Abnormally cold to the touch
  • Looks mottled , bluish or pale
  • Breathing very fast
  • Unusually sleepy and difficult to wake
  • A rash that does not fade when you press it
  • Having fits or convulsions

The HSE is also warning people of symptoms in children under five which include lack of appetite and repeated vomiting. 

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