Sepsis is life threatening. It can be hard to spot.
If you think you or someone you look after has symptoms of sepsis, call 999 or go to A&E. Trust your instincts.
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if a baby or young child has any of these symptoms of sepsis:
- blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
- a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis
- difficulty breathing (you may notice grunting noises or their stomach sucking under their ribcage), breathlessness or breathing very fast
- a weak, high-pitched cry that's not like their normal cry
- not responding like they normally do, or not interested in feeding or normal activities
- being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake
They may not have all these symptoms.
Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if an adult or older child has any of these symptoms of sepsis:
Sepsis can be hard to spot. There are lots of possible symptoms.
Symptoms can be vague. They can be like symptoms of other conditions, including flu or a chest infection.
Urgent advice: Call 111 if:
You, your child or someone you look after:
- feels very unwell or like there's something seriously wrong
- has not had a pee all day (for adults and older children) or in the last 12 hours (for babies and young children)
- keeps vomiting and cannot keep any food or milk down (for babies and young children)
- has swelling, redness or pain around a cut or wound
- has a very high or low temperature, feels hot or cold to the touch, or is shivering
Do not worry if you're not sure if it's sepsis – it's still best to call 111.
They can tell you what to do, arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor, or call you an ambulance.
Contact NHS 111
Sepsis can be especially hard to spot in:
- babies and young children
- people with dementia
- people with a learning disability
- people who have difficulty communicating
Further information on sepsis for people with a learning disability and their carers:
- NHS England easy read information on sepsis for people with a learning disability
- Sherwood Forest Hospitals video of sepsis information for people with a learning disability
- Sherwood Forest Hospitals video of sepsis information for families and carers of people with a learning disability
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection.
It happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body's own tissues and organs.
You cannot catch sepsis from another person.
Sepsis is sometimes called septicaemia or blood poisoning.
Page last reviewed: 18 July 2019
Next review due: 18 July 2022