Lily's hospital dash shows peril of septicaemia

Jeremy Laurence

Lily allen's hospitalisation with septicaemia has focused attention on a little understood but potentially fatal condition.

The 25-year-old singer was reported to be responding well to treatment after being taken to hospital by ambulance from home, where she was recovering from her second miscarriage.

She had been with her boyfriend, Sam Cooper (32), after losing her baby five days earlier, six months into her pregnancy.

Septicaemia is a recognised risk following miscarriage, as foetal material can be left behind in the womb acting as a reservoir for infection. In addition pregnant women have reduced immunity to allow them to carry the baby without rejecting it.

Germs

The condition can be life threatening and is caused by the body over-reacting to an infection. The immune system goes into overdrive, triggering reactions that can lead to widespread swelling and blood clotting in the body.

Septicaemia is often called blood poisoning although it is not limited to the blood but can affect the whole body, including the organs.

If it is detected early enough and has not affected the organs, it is sometimes possible to treat it at home.

But when the function of vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys or liver is affected, urgent admission to hospital and treatment with intravenous antibiotics in intensive care is necessary.

Septicaemia can be caused by an infection in any part of the body including the lungs (flu or pneumonia), urinary tract, skin or nervous system (meningitis).

Normally, the body responds by fighting the infection, sending white blood cells to destroy the germs causing it.

Symptoms of septicaemia usually develop quickly and include fever, chills, a rapid heartbeat and breathing, followed by dizziness (indicating low blood pressure) nausea and cold, clammy skin.

Ms Allen is likely to have been treated in intensive care with "broad-spectrum" intravenous antibiotics, designed to work against a wide range of bacteria, while the results of laboratory tests were awaited.

hnews@herald.ie