More than a third of parents say they don’t know sepsis warning signs

Reuben Harvey-Smith has both of his legs amuptated after contacting sepsis aged two Picture: Louise

Reuben Harvey-Smith has both of his legs amuptated after contacting sepsis aged two Picture: Louise Harvey-Smith - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk mum, whose son’s legs had to be amputated after he contracted sepsis, has called for more awareness around the condition.

Louise Harvey-Smith's son Reuben was just two when he had to have both of his legs and most of his fingers amputated after his sepsis was initially dismissed as tonsillitis.

It was only when he deteriorated further that the correct diagnosis was made. East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust later admitted liability for shortcomings in Reuben's care at A+E.

Sepsis is triggered by an infection in the body and sees the body's immune system go into overdrive in reaction to the infection.

If it isn't stopped it can damage internal organs.


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More than a third of parents were unable to name a single symptom of the condition in research commissioned by the Case Files podcast.

The research also showed that 20% of people didn't know that the condition was fatal and three-quarters didn't realise that adults and children showed different symptoms.

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Now, Ms Harvey-Smith is hoping to spread awareness of the condition and the signs that parents can look out for.

"I knew nothing about sepsis before but in hindsight he had all the signs. The temperature, the vomiting, the rash, he was lethargic, he had cold hands and feet and mottled skin," said Ms Harvey-Smith.

"Reuben had everything and if I had been more aware then things might have turned out differently.

"I'm not at all surprised by the figures. It's been years since what happened to Reuben but I still have to regularly explain to people what sepsis is.

"What happened to Reuben was tough and still is but I came so close to losing him that I'm just grateful for every day that he's here.

"And if by talking about it we can educate people and save just one life then it will be worth it."

The UK Sepsis Trust uses a simple acronym to help people remember what the signs are. The acronym spells out the word SEPSIS.

What are the signs?

The UK Sepsis Trust promotes a simple acronym, SEPSIS, to help people remember what the symptoms are.

Slurred speech or confusion

Extreme shivering or muscle pain

Passing no urine in a day

Severe breathlessness

It feels like you're going to die

Skin mottled or discoloured

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