The lines between Covid-19 and sepsis can be blurred

UK Sepsis Trust

The UK Sepsis Trust are on a mission to save lives from sepsis and severe infection, and to support survivors in their recovery. During this pandemic, it has become clear to us that we have a duty to step up and extend our support services to those hospitalised with COVID-19 and their families.

Sepsis is the body’s overreaction to an infection or injury. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death, but with early diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics. The relationship between COVID-19 and sepsis is closer than first thought. Both trigger a disproportionate immune response, as well as sharing symptoms such as fever spikes, breathlessness and muscle pain. It’s likely that at least 25% of COVID-19 related deaths are caused by sepsis. As well as this, people who have survived COVID-19 are also likely to go on to develop sepsis - and sepsis survivors are at greater risk of developing COVID-19.  

The recovery profile of patients surviving COVID-19 who have been in intensive care is similar to people who have had sepsis. Symptoms most commonly seen during recovery include (and are not limited to) PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, short term memory loss, hair loss, swollen limbs, changes in vision and repeated infection.


We have set up our COVID-19 Recovery Response, a patient support programme offering help to survivors and individuals bereaved by the virus. Our free telephone and email support services, who to date have supported over 2646 people with their recovery, are now also open to anyone hospitalised with COVID-19 and their families. We also launched a ‘Recovery after Critical Illness’ guide for survivors and their friends and family, and a ‘Returning to Work Following Critical Illness’ booklet for both survivors and employers, free to download here:

Our telephone support lines are open 24/7, and our experienced support team are specialist sepsis nurses with many years’ experience working in ICU. Our team were recently featured in The Metro, with a reader writing in to say that “If it wasn’t for Larry and Oliver, I might have died of fear during this pandemic! My immense gratitude to you for helping me cope with the symptoms of post-intensive care syndrome.” Amongst many other moving testimonials we have received over the years, we recently heard from a service user who emailed us to say that she contacted us “at a very low point in my recovery from COVID-19. Katie, the nurse who contacted me, was incredibly helpful, supportive and knowledgeable. To have someone reach out - with such kindness and so quickly - was wonderful. She followed up our contact and sent a link to a website that has enabled me to accelerate my recovery.”

Please help us to help others, by signposting anyone you know who has been critically affected by COVID-19 to our free, confidential services via, and look out for our new campaign on Twitter: For more information please visit

Alexandra Wells
UK Sepsis Trust