Sepsis is the body’s extreme reaction to any infection. It is a medical emergency that affects at least 1.7 million people each year in the United States and kills nearly 270,000. Early detection offers the best chance for survival and can limit life-long complications. Otherwise, it can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death. This month is Sepsis Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to get ahead of sepsis by learning the risks and how to avoid them.
How does a person identify sepsis – are there symptoms?
It’s important that patients, families and caregivers, and healthcare professionals consider sepsis as a possibility. Symptoms of sepsis can be any one or a combination of several signs that happen when an infection is not getting better, or it gets worse. The most frequently identified germs that can develop into sepsis are staph, E. coli, and some types of strep.
Symptoms of sepsis can include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- A high heart rate
- A fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
What should you do if you suspect sepsis?
Sepsis is difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. But time matters if you suspect an infection has developed into sepsis in yourself or a loved one. Immediately call 911 or go to a hospital and tell them you are concerned about sepsis.
Who is most at risk?
Anyone who can get an infection can also develop sepsis. But people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, or kidney disease have a higher risk of developing infections that can lead to sepsis. Those who are 65 years old and older, people with weakened immune systems, and children younger than 1 year also tend to have a higher risk of developing sepsis.
What can we do to prevent it?
Since sepsis often develops after a recognized infection, prompt treatment of infections is important. Make sure to seek medical care if you suspect any serious infection, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, or a wound that appears infected.
It is also important to avoid infections from developing in the first place. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best methods to avoid infections. Take good care of chronic conditions and get the recommended vaccines. Wash your hands often and keep cuts clean and covered until they heal. Ultimately, if you suspect sepsis, act fast and get medical care immediately. Don’t hesitate to tell healthcare professionals that you suspect sepsis so appropriate treatment, including antibiotics and treating the source of the infection, can be given quickly.
A Closer Look at Your Health airs weekly on KBOI AM 670 in Boise; this is the transcript of the Sept. 25, 2018 program.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on sepsis
- Sepsis Awareness Month
- Sepsis fact sheet
- Healthcare Associated Infections