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Knowing the Signs of Sepsis

In a healthy body, infections from germs like bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites are prevented or fought by the immune system. Sometimes, for reasons that researchers still have not figured out, the immune system stops fighting the germs and instead turns on itself, which can lead to sepsis.

Just like strokes or heart attacks, sepsis is a medical emergency. If you have signs and symptoms of sepsis, seek medical attention immediately!

Who’s at Risk?

Anyone can develop sepsis, but infants, the elderly, as well as people with chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer and kidney disease), people with recent severe illness or hospitalization, and sepsis survivors are at increased risk.

What are the Symptoms?

If you or a loved one has an infection, it’s important to be on the lookout for a combination of sepsis symptoms, and see a provider immediately if you have them. The Sepsis Alliance has adopted this acronym to help remember the symptoms:

When it comes to sepsis, remember it’s about TIME.

T – Temperature:

Any change in your body’s temperature—both high or low—can be a sign of sepsis.

I – Infection:

You may have signs and symptoms around the affected area (such as chest pain for pneumonia), or signs like fever, fatigue, and pain for a generalized infection. Keep in mind that it is possible to have an infection and not know it.

M – Mental decline:

Watch for a sudden change in mental status, such as becoming confused or severely sleepy.

E – Extremely ill:

Sepsis survivors often say that it was the worst, sickest, or most in pain they’d ever felt.

How Do You Treat It?

The most common treatments for sepsis are antibiotics and IV fluids.

Typically, a provider will prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are effective against many of the most common bacteria, given intravenously to get into the patient’s system quickly. In addition, IV fluids help to keep the blood pressure at a healthy level, keeping organs functioning properly and to reduce damage from sepsis.

The best treatment is prevention. To reduce your risk of sepsis infection, be sure to:

  • Manage chronic conditions
  • Get recommended vaccines
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Keep cuts clean and covered until healed

To learn more about sepsis, click the links below:

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