This is a post prepared under a contract funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and written on behalf of the Mom It Forward Influencer Network for use in CDC’s Get Ahead of Sepsis educational effort. Opinions on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CDC.
This information could save your live, or the life of someone you love! Everything you need to know about sepsis: risks, symptoms, and what to do if you suspect sepsis.
When I was in grad school, I worked as a course facilitator for the medical students’ problem-based learning course. Each week, the students received a set of notes detailing a patient’s symptoms. They took the notes home, researched the case, and returned the following week with their diagnoses.
The most memorable of these cases for me as the course facilitator? A little girl with sepsis. My class was full of caring, intelligent students. They went home with their case notes, studied them, and returned with a range of possible diagnoses.
None of them guessed sepsis.
More than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the United States. At least 250,000 die as a result of this life-threatening condition. Despite these staggering statistics, more than 60% of adults in America have never heard of sepsis.
My students were young, with a lot to learn and experience. Unfortunately, sepsis is a condition that even experienced doctors miss all too frequently. All too often, doctors are tired. Symptoms can make doctors assume something else is wrong.
That’s why it’s so important for patients and caregivers to ask, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
What is Sepsis?
Infections put you and your family at risk for a life-threatening condition called sepsis. Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a medical emergency.
What Does Sepsis Look Like?
Sepsis symptoms can include one or a combination of the following:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
What Are the Risk Factors?
Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Certain people are at higher risk:
- Adults 65 or older
- People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
- People with weakened immune systems
- Children younger than one
What Can I Do?
- Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections. Some steps include taking good care of chronic conditions and getting recommended vaccines.
- Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean and covered until healed.
- Know the symptoms of sepsis.
- ACT FAST. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse
Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one suspect sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, visit www.cdc.gov/sepsis.
For more information about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.