A nationwide campaign to help parents spot the symptoms of sepsis to protect young children and save lives has been launched today. The campaign is principally aimed at parents and carers of young children aged 0-4 and will include a new film featuring mother and campaigner Melissa Mead (pictured), who lost her baby son William to sepsis in December 2014.

The UK Sepsis Trust estimates that there are more than 120,000 cases of sepsis in adults and children, and around 37,000 deaths, each year in England.

Campaign supporter and UK Sepsis trust ambassador Melissa Mead said, “Sepsis is a cruel, ruthless condition which doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone. I hope this campaign reaches as many people as possible, so all parents out there know about sepsis and how serious it can be. The more parents know, the quicker they can act if they suspect their child may be suffering from sepsis – it could be life-saving.

“I will never hear my sweet child say ‘mummy I love you’. I will never know the man that William would have grown to be. So please, it is too late for me to ‘think sepsis’, but it’s not too late for you.”

Millions of leaflets and posters are being sent to GP surgeries and hospitals across the country. These materials, developed with the Royal Colleges, will urge parents to call 999 or take their child to A&E if they display any of the following signs:

Looks mottled, bluish or pale
Is very lethargic or difficult to wake
Feels abnormally cold to touch
Is breathing very fast
Has a rush that does not fade when you press it
Has a fit or convulsion

Morwenna Tudor from Gloucester, whose daughter Penelope contracted sepsis in 2014, added, “Penelope had sepsis when she was 22 months old. She probably got it from chicken pox, which initially masked the symptoms of lethargy, lack of interest in food and drink, and struggling to urinate. Thankfully, our doctor realised and sent us straight to hospital where medical staff acted fast.

“After several surgeries, blood transfusions and a six week stay in hospital, and what was a terrifying and emotionally exhausting time for us as a family, we were able to bring Penelope home. She has some long-term damage to her hip joint and it’s possible she may have to have a hip replacement in the future. We had no idea about sepsis until Penelope was ill, so we fully support this campaign and urge all parents to ‘think sepsis’.”

Caroline Gamlin, NHS England South West Medical Director, said: “Sepsis is a major killer, claiming over 37,000 lives each year, which is why it is so important for parents to know what action to take when their child is unwell. This campaign will help parents identify when their children are seriously unwell and to encourage them to seek urgent medical attention. We know that acting quickly can save a child’s life.

“Right across NHS England we have started a new movement to tackle this condition head on, from nurses and doctors on the wards, to paramedics seeing patients in their homes, staff across the NHS are being made more aware of how to spot and deal with sepsis.”

For further information on sepsis, visit nhs.uk/sepsis or www.sepsistrust.org