The latest press reports of three-year old Reuben who was left fighting for his life and had to undergo amputation to both legs and seven fingers after a hospital failed to diagnose toxic shock syndrome highlights the continuing need for sepsis awareness.

What is toxic shock syndrome?

Toxic shock syndrome can be a life-threatening bacterial infection which can arise following an insect bite, wound or burn. When bacteria are allowed to enter the body, the toxins produced can damage tissue, skin and organs and, if left untreated, can prove fatal.

Reuben was playing with his older brother when he was burned by an iron. He was treated at hospital but, after being discharged, he became very unwell. His mother said he was lethargic, shivering with a rash on his inner thighs, a high temperature and cold hands and feet.

After taking him to Ipswich Hospital A&E department, Reuben’s mother was told that he was simply suffering from a sore throat and that it was too soon for an infection to have set in. He was sent home with penicillin.

She phoned another hospital who advised that Reuben’s symptoms sounded like toxic shock and advised that he be taken straight to A&E. Reuben was then treated as an emergency but his family were warned that he may not survive the night. He did start to respond to the drugs administered but, because of the damage caused by the untreated toxic shock, he had to have both legs and seven fingers amputated.

As can be seen in Reuben’s case, he had a number of the “red flag” symptoms for sepsis.