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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Warning of Blood Stream Infections caused by poor hydration

Warning of Blood Stream Infections caused by poor hydration

Posted on Monday 16th July 2018

Cumbria County Council's Public Health department and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust are warning the public that poor hydration is one of the causes leading to an increase in Blood Stream Infections including Escherichia coli (E.coli).

In 2015 Blood Stream Infections, like E.coli, are believed to have contributed to 5,500 patient deaths in the UK. A number of these infections are resistant to antibiotics too, making them harder to treat in those affected.

The vast majority of infections originate in the community as a result of a urinary tract infection (UTI), one important and often preventable cause is simply due to people not drinking enough.

Dr Clive Graham, consultant microbiologist and director of infection prevention at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

"If you are elderly or frail you are more at risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI). The most serious type of UTI is where the infection spreads to the kidneys and bloodstream. There are seasonal increases and there was a significant peak in August last year. In the summer months, if it is warmer, then it's quite easy to get dehydrated. In June we saw many more bloodstream infections than last year, and one of the simplest ways to try and avoid UTIs is to keep well hydrated.

“The symptoms of a UTI include needing to pee more frequently, pain or discomfort when passing urine or pain around the kidney area.

“In elderly people a urine infection can be serious, resulting in severe confusion or agitation. As a result, the signs can be particularly difficult to spot in patients living with dementia.

“Anyone who thinks they or a relative may have a UTI or kidney infection should contact their GP, who may prescribe antibiotics. But the key is prevention and keeping yourself well hydrated, drinking little and often, is the key.”

Latest figures

Figures from North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust which runs the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital saw 241 cases of E.coliBlood Stream Infection in 2017/18 compared to 236 the previous year.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust which runs Furness General Hospital and Lancaster Royal Infirmary saw 309 cases in 2017/18 compared to 244 the previous year.


The risk increases with age with the majority of infections seen in the elderly, some elderly people can be reluctant to drink for a number of reasons such needing to go to the toilet more often, fear of falling when going to the toilet, pain when moving and as we get older we tend to feel less thirsty.

Signs to look out for which may indicate that a person is not getting enough to drink include:

  • Drinking less
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth, lips, eyes
  • Poor oral health
  • Confusion
  • Dark urine
  • Passing small amounts of urine or going to the toilet less frequently
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infection

Prevention is key and an important way of reducing the risk of getting a urine infection is to drink plenty of fluids and remain hydrated.

Unless a person is on a fluid restriction for medical reasons, it’s important that we all drink around eight glasses of fluid each day. This helps to ensure that the urine system is regularly flushed through before any bacteria present get a chance to cause infection.

If people care for, or are in contact with someone who may be vulnerable to dehydration, please encourage them to drink. Make sure that the drinks they are offered are ones that they enjoy, this can include water, milk, fruit juice, tea or coffee