Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. In other words, it’s the body’s over active and toxic response to an infection. The burden of sepsis is most likely highest in low and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that;

  • Sepsis affects more than 30 million people worldwide every year, potentially leading to 6 million deaths.
  • Three million new-borns and 1.2 million children suffer from sepsis globally every year, and 3 out of every 10 deaths due to neonatal sepsis are thought to be caused by resistant pathogens.
  • One in ten deaths associated with pregnancy and childbirth is due to maternal sepsis with over 95% of deaths due to maternal sepsis occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
  • One million new-born deaths are associated with maternal infection, such as maternal sepsis, each year.


The obvious risk factor of sepsis is an infection. Any infection (bug bite, pneumonia, and meningitis etc) can trigger sepsis and can lead to severe sepsis and septic shock (where blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level).

Infants and aged people are at risk of developing sepsis as well as people with chronic or severe illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer and impaired immune system.


Various infections such as bacterial, viral or fungal can lead to sepsis, the most likely varieties include:

  1. Pneumonia
  2. Abdominal infection
  3. Kidney infection
  4. Bloodstream infection (bacteraemia)


Sepsis has no single symptom. Symptoms of sepsis can include a combination of any of the following:

  1. Shivering, fever or very cold feeling.
  2. Extreme pain or discomfort.
  3. Pale or discoloured skin.
  4. Confusion or disorientation
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Increased heart rate
  7. Clammy or sweaty skin


  1. Good hygiene which includes regular hand washing and conscious effort to keep cuts clean until healed.
  2. Know the symptoms of sepsis as listed above and ensure your family gets educated on it.
  3. You can talk to your doctor about further steps to prevent infection and take all recommended vaccines.
  4. Seek for urgent medical care when an infection is not getting better.


Diagnosing sepsis can be difficult because its signs and symptoms can be caused by other disorders. Various laboratory analysis is done to pinpoint the underlying infection.

Laboratory analysis such as blood culture, urine culture, would swab culture, sputum culture, clotting time test, liver function test, and renal function test are often requested for by the doctor.


Prompt treatment of sepsis, usually with antibiotics and substantial amounts of intravenous fluids, improves chances for survival. However, the treatment for sepsis varies and this depends on the site and cause of the initial infection, the organs affected and the extent of any damage.

Treatment modalities will include:

  1. Antibiotics: If the sepsis is detected early enough, this may be a course of tablets you can finish taking at home as prescribed by your doctor. But if the sepsis is severe or have developed to septic shock, antibiotics will be given directly into your vein (intravenously). It is advisable for antibiotic treatment to be commenced within an hour of diagnosis to reduce the risk of serious complications or death.
  2. Oxygen: Your body’s oxygen demand goes up if you have sepsis. If you are admitted to hospital with sepsis and the level of oxygen in your blood is low, you’ll usually be given oxygen. This is either given through a mask or tubes in your nostrils.
  3. Source of infection: When a source of the infection can be identified, such as an infected wound, this will also need to be treated.
  4. Blood pressure: Medications called vasopressors are used if you have low blood pressure caused by sepsis. These are given intravenously to help increase blood pressure.
  5. Other treatment: You may also require additional treatments, such as blood transfusion, mechanical ventilation (where a machine is used to help you breathe) and dialysis (where a machine filters your blood to copy the function of your kidneys).


RELATED ARTICLE: What is Urinary Tract Infection? Is anyone really safe?

REFERENCES: WHO, Mayo clinic, CDC, and NHS UK.

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