Symptoms of sepsis 

The symptoms of sepsis may develop after a localised infection (infection limited to one part of the body) or an injury.

The most common sites of infection leading to sepsis are the lungs, urinary tract, abdomen (tummy), and pelvis.

In some cases, sepsis may develop when you are already in hospital, for example if you have recently had surgery and a drip or catheter has been connected to your body. Read more about the causes of sepsis.

The symptoms of sepsis usually develop quickly and can include:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • chills and shivering
  • a fast heartbeat
  • fast breathing

In some cases, symptoms of more severe sepsis or septic shock (when your blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level) can develop within hours. These can include:

  • feeling dizzy or faint
  • a change in mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
  • diarrhoea 
  • nausea and vomiting
  • slurred speech
  • severe muscle pain
  • severe breathlessness
  • decreased urine production (for example, not urinating for a day)
  • cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
  • loss of consciousness

When to seek medical advice

See your GP immediately if you have recently had an infection or injury and you have possible early signs of sepsis.

Severe sepsis and septic shock are medical emergencies. If you think that you or someone in your care has one of these conditions, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.


Page last reviewed: 21/03/2014

Next review due: 21/03/2016