Limerick experts warn public to ask ‘Could it be sepsis?’

The emergency department at UHL.

A LIMERICK medical expert in a condition that kills one in five people who get it, and is responsible for more deaths than heart attacks, has spoken out on how to recognise symptoms and get help.

The HSE is encouraging people to learn about the signs and symptoms of sepsis, as early recognition and treatment is important.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition caused by an infection that affects the organs and kills one in give people who develop it. It kills more people each year than heart attacks, stroke, or almost any cancer.

Yvonne Young, Assistant Director of Nursing in Sepsis at UL Hospitals Group, said: “It is important to be sepsis aware because sepsis is a life-threatening condition and should be treated with the same urgency as a heart attack or stroke.”

“It can be complex and difficult to diagnose. It is the body’s abnormal response to infection that results in the body’s own immune system attacking its own tissues and organs. One in five patients who develop sepsis will die but with early recognition and early treatment this risk will be reduced.”

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Anyone with an infection can be at risk of sepsis, even if they are taking antibiotics. However, this does not mean every infection will develop in to sepsis.

Those most at risk are very young children and those aged 75 or over, have certain medical conditions such as cancer, COPD, diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, or have a weak immune system.

Maternal sepsis is rare but can develop during pregnancy or up to six weeks (42 days) after birth, miscarriage, or abortion.

Dr Michael O’Dwyer, Clinical Lead in the HSE Sepsis Programme, says: “It’s extremely important to recognise the symptoms of sepsis and to ask ‘could it be sepsis?’.”

“But it’s as important to reduce your risk of developing it in the first place. There are things people can do to reduce their risk of sepsis, such as good personal hygiene, keeping up to date with your vaccinations, taking antibiotics as prescribed, and following medical advice recommended for chronic conditions.”

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