Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a syndrome of severe immune dysregulation, characterised by extreme inflammation, fever, cytopaenias and organ dysfunction. HLH can be triggered by conditions such as infection, autoimmune disease and malignancy, among others. Both a familial and a secondary form have been described, the latter being increasingly recognised in adult patients with critical illness. HLH is difficult to diagnose, often under-recognised and carries a high mortality. Patients can present in a very similar fashion to sepsis and the two syndromes can co-exist and overlap, yet HLH requires specific immunosuppressive therapy. HLH should be actively excluded in patients with presumed sepsis who either lack a clear focus of infection or who are not responding to energetic infection management. Elevated serum ferritin is a key biomarker that may indicate the need for further investigations for HLH and can guide treatment. Early diagnosis and a multidisciplinary approach to HLH management may save lives.