Sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness that can occur when the body’s response to an infection, which can lead to tissue damage and failure. Sepsis is the leading cause of death from infection around the world.

Sepsis can be difficult to predict and diagnose.

If identified early, Sepsis is treatable.

Signs of sepsis in adults

Adults can experience one or more of the following sign:

  • fast breathing
  • fast heart rate
  • confusion, slurred speech or disorientation
  • fever or shivering
  • muscle pain
  • not passing urine
  • discoloured skin
  • feeling very unwell, extreme pain or like you've 'going to die'.

For more information, the following poster (PDF 271KB) outlines the signs in adults.

Signs of sepsis in children and babies

Children and babies can  can experience one or more of the following sign:

  • convulsions or fits
  • floppy, lifeless body
  • drowsy, difficult to wake up or confused
  • fast breathing
  • discoloured, very pale or bluish skin
  • a rash that doesn’t fade when pressed
  • high or very low temperature
  • not passing urine (or no wet nappy) for several hours
  • high pitched cry
  • vomiting repeatedly
  • no appetite or not feeding

For more information, the following child poster (PDF 266KB) and baby poster (PDF 256KB) outlines signs.

What causes sepsis?

Sepsis occurs when the body’s response to an infection becomes harmful. Infection causes the immune system to release chemicals into the blood to fight the infection.  These chemicals can cause generalised inflammation in the body causing blood vessels to leak and form blood clots. These changes can damage the body’s organs.

Almost any type of infections can lead to sepsis, including infections of the lungs, abdomen (such as appendicitis), urinary tract, skin, or other parts of the body.

Treating sepsis

Sepsis requires urgent medical treatment, usually in hospital.

Am I at risk of sepsis?

Anyone can develop sepsis, however children, infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. People with chronic illness, such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer and kidney or liver disease, are also at increased risk, as well as people who have experienced a severe burn or physical trauma.

Watch a short video to hear from a sepsis survivor and advocate who shares her personal journey and patient experience and why it is important to spread the word about sepsis.

Further information

For further information on Sepsis see Let’s talk about sepsis brochure (PDF 1MB) and Life after sepsis fact sheet (PDF 322KB).

Email: HealthICS@sa.gov.au
Phone: (08) 7425 7161