The septicaemic rash
The appearance of the distinctive rash - often one of the final symptoms of deadly septicaemia - means that immediate medical treatment is vital. However, don't assume that because there's no rash, there's no urgency - and don't let your doctor or hospital staff assume that either! In fact, you may not see a rash at all - and if you wait until you do, it may well be too late to stop the progress of the disease.
What causes the rash?
This happens when the bacteria multiply in the blood vessels, and release toxins, or poisons. These damage the blood vessels, so the blood can leak through into the tissues underneath the skin. It can start off either as a pink rash, or as tiny red or purple blood spots, like pin-pricks, anywhere on the body - which rapidly spread into purple blotches or bruises. The victim can literally bleed to death if not treated in time.
How it starts
It could start off just as a faint pink rash, as a red or purple spot or blotch, or as pinpricks on the skin. Often people mistake the early signs of the rash for a common ailment - such as a blister, a scratch, a bite mark, a bruise, or even an ingrown hair.
In the final, critical stage, it spreads rapidly into purple bruises, or haemorrhages, which cover the body. The person can go into shock, their blood pressure falls and circulation fails in the body extremities - the fingers, toes and limbs. Amputations or death may be a result.
The glass test
You may have heard of the 'drinking glass' or 'pressure' test - pressing a clear tumbler firmly against the rash, to see if it fades under pressure (like a harmless rash does), or stays red, indicating a septicaemic rash. The trouble with this test is that it is not 100% reliable, especially in the early stages, and can give you a false sense of security. You need to keep testing at regular intervals. However if a rash appears, along with other symptoms, it's wise not to wait around trying to diagnose it yourself, but go straight to a doctor or hospital.
Information courtesy 'Fighting Meningococcal Diseases' 2003 Media One
The rash has many stages and forms
The glass test, or pressure test - a septicaemic rash usually does not fade under pressure. (Not 100% reliable.)