Early sepsis can be a difficult condition to recognise, and often takes a while to diagnose; during this time the casualty can deteriorate rapidly. There is a major campaign to raise awareness of possible early signs as the sooner treatment is started, the better the outcome for the patient.

Early signs

  • Cold and shivery or hot and flushed
  • Raised temperature
  • Aching muscles
  • Feeling very tired
  • Sickness and/or diarrhoea
  • Confusion

Initially blood vessels may dilate to try and attack the infection. Blood pressure drops due to the dilation of blood vessels, the heart beats faster to try and maintain blood pressure within the dilated blood vessels. Respiratory rate increases, and clotting may be affected. As sepsis progresses the body starts to go into shock. The heart struggles to maintain the necessary output and blood vessels may start to constrict to try and conserve blood to the vital organs. Eventually organs begin to fail, leading to multi-organ failure.

The exact physiology differs from patient to patient.

Sepsis can be hard to recognise at first as early symptoms are similar to flu and other common illnesses. 

For a free copy of this poster email emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk

When to get urgent medical help

If someone is getting worse and you are worried or if they are seriously unwell and have some of the above symptoms. If you are sent home from the hospital or GP surgery and the casualty is getting worse, go back. Trust your instincts and tell them you are worried. Be the advocate for the casualty!



First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a first aid course or do one online to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Introducing a comprehensive guide to accident prevention and treatment in the older generation; Slips, Trips and Fractured Hips by Emma Hammett RGN. This book has been written for people caring for older friends and relatives; children caring for elderly parents, for spouses, for older people wanting to keep themselves that bit safer and for anyone working with or caring for older people. It is designed to help you take measures to prevent life-threatening injuries and help you plan, prepare and avoid mishap, as well as equip you with the necessary skills should an accident occur.