Sepsis – Be alert to the dangers

14 July 2023

Hannah Brown who died of sepsis in March 2021

Cumbrian livestock farmer Hannah Brown tragically passed away on 26 March 2021, just two days after developing sepsis at just 26 years old. Find out about this devastating illness and make sure you are sepsis savvy.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It occurs when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive. If it isn’t treated immediately with antibiotics, it can result in organ failure and death. It kills five people every hour in the UK.

Farmers are especially in danger

Farmers are more vulnerable to the condition, as their work means they’re more likely to suffer cuts and grazes, which can become infected and potentially lead to sepsis. Also, living in rural and often isolated settings means farmers can’t always get medical attention as quickly as they should. A busy schedule can also make it difficult to take time off, making this even harder.

Hannah’s partner Ben Richardson said: “I wouldn’t want anybody to go through what we’ve had to go through. I wish I’d have known how to spot the signs before we got to that point.”

Look out for these symptoms

Seek medical help urgently if you or another adult develop and of these signs.

Slurred speech or confusion

Extreme shivering or muscle pain

Passing no urine (in a day)

Severe breathlessness

It feels like you are going to die

Skin is mottled or discoloured

A child may have sepsis if he or she:

  • is breathing very fast
  • has a ‘fit’ or convulsion
  • looks mottled, bluish, or pale Has a rash that does not fade when you press it
  • is very lethargic or difficult to wake
  • feels abnormally cold to touch

If you spot any of these signs, call 999 or go straight to A&E.

To find out more or download the posters visit Sepsis Awareness in the Farming Community | The UK Sepsis Trust

Support from the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust

Tragic tales like Hannah’s, and the heightened risk of sepsis to farmers, are why the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, an independent charity set up by NFU Mutual to support charities and organisations working in the interests of agriculture, rural communities and the countryside, is supporting the UK Sepsis Trust (UKST). UKST is a charity that exists to fight sepsis, stop preventable deaths and support those affected by the life-threatening conditions. At the end 2022, the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust approved a donation of £70,000 to UKST, to support the charity’s work in raising awareness of the risks of sepsis with members of the farming community.

Early diagnosis will save lives 

Dr Ron Daniels BEM, who founded the charity, says: “Our goal is to end preventable deaths from sepsis and improve outcomes for survivors. We believe that earlier diagnosis and treatment across the UK would save several thousand lives a year. The fact is that farmers and labourers are at increased risk of becoming infected, so any cuts should be cleaned thoroughly, disinfected and covered before returning to work. Sepsis can also be caused by injuries caused from trauma or by illness. If you, or a loved one displays any of the symptoms (see above) it’s important that you seek medical attention, urgently.”

In September last year, UKST delivered their first campaign to try and grow awareness of sepsis among farmers. The campaign included a moving film in memory of Hannah Brown, who passed away after developing sepsis. But Hannah’s film is just the start, and the charity wants to do more to build greater awareness within farming.

NFU Mutual’s partnership is enabling the charity to further their activities.

This includes producing a new information video highlighting the potential risks of sepsis on a farm, and how these risks can be prevented. It urges anyone who is working in agriculture to take note of symptoms and seek medical help if they think they have the condition.

Hannah Binns, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, added: “I’m really proud that the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust is supporting the UK Sepsis Trust’s important work to raise awareness of the condition within the farming community.

“The very nature of farming means farmers can be more prone to cuts and grazes so knowing about the risks of contracting sepsis and the symptoms will help to save lives.”

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