Information for the public

How is suspected sepsis treated?

The next steps will depend on your risk of life-threatening illness from sepsis. Remember that sepsis needs to be treated urgently because it can quickly get worse and lead to septic shock, which can be fatal.

Treatment outside hospital

If your healthcare professional thinks that you have an infection but it is unlikely that you have sepsis, you may be given treatment for your infection (such as antibiotics) and told you can get better at home. You should also be given information on signs to look out for that your infection may be getting worse so you know when to get help (see important information for when you get home).

If your healthcare professional thinks you might have sepsis and you are too ill to be looked after elsewhere, you will need to go into hospital. This is so you can be checked regularly and treated quickly if you need it.

If your healthcare professional thinks you are at high risk of life-threatening illness from sepsis, you should be taken to hospital straight away. If it will take more than an hour to get to hospital your healthcare professional or ambulance staff should give you antibiotics directly into a vein through a drip or injection before you get there.

Treatment in hospital

If health professionals decide you are at high risk of life-threatening illness from sepsis, you should see a senior doctor or nurse straight away.

You should have antibiotics no more than an hour after you have been diagnosed as being at high risk, because it's important to get treated as quickly as possible.

If health professionals decide you are at high risk of life-threatening illness from sepsis, and you haven't already been treated on your way in, you should have antibiotics directly into a vein through a drip or injection as soon as you arrive in hospital.

Your healthcare team should also:

  • take some blood for tests

  • give you extra fluids through a drip or injection if you need them – this should happen within an hour of arriving at hospital

  • give you oxygen if you need it

  • examine you to see if they can find where the infection started.

You might have other tests such as a urine test or x-rays of your chest or other parts of your body. Your healthcare team should talk to you about sepsis and explain any tests and treatments you need. They should also explain this to your family or carers, if they are with you.

People who are very ill or have gone into septic shock will need treatment from a critical care team. Some people may need surgery to remove infected tissue.

If the infection that caused your sepsis is starting to get better your healthcare team should let you know when it will be safe to go home.

Tests in babies and children

If your baby or child might have sepsis, the tests to look for the infection will vary depending on their age, symptoms and medical history. For example a newborn baby is more at risk of a serious infection than an older child as they haven't built up as much immunity or had any immunisations.

Your healthcare team should talk to you about any tests or procedures they would like to do, what will happen and what they are for. You should also ask your healthcare team at any point if you're not sure about why something is being done.

Questions about finding out what's wrong

  • Can you tell me more about the tests or investigations you've offered me?

  • What are the tests for?

  • What do they involve?

  • Will I need to have them in hospital?

  • How long will it take to get the results of these tests?

  • Do you think I/my child/relative has sepsis?

Questions about treatments

  • Will antibiotics cure my sepsis?

  • How long will they take to have an effect?

  • (If your antibiotics have been stopped) Why have you stopped my antibiotics?

  • Why have you given me fluid into my veins? How often will you need to do this?

  • How much improvement can I expect and how quickly?

  • Might I have problems when I stop taking the antibiotics?

  • Are there any risks associated with this treatment?

  • How will I be given my treatment?

  • Will I need to have surgery?

  • Is there some other information about the treatment (like a leaflet, video or a website I can go to) that I or my family or carers can have?

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