How to recognize sepsis symptoms

How to recognize sepsis symptoms


Sepsis is always associated with an infection. We typically think of it more commonly with bacterial infection but it could be from viral or fungal infections in people with poor immune systems. Sepsis is your body overreacting to an infection. Many people think sepsis is only a blood infection, but actually the most common source is the lung with pneumonia or urine with bladder or kidney infection. Sepsis is exceedingly common probably a current estimate is about 2 million cases of sepsis a year in the United States. If you look at inpatient records, it accounts for 30 to 50 percent of deaths in the hospital. One way of remembering the signs and symptoms of sepsis, is to remember the word sepsis: S can stand for shivering, fever, or cold, E for extreme pain, P for pale skin, S for shortness of breath, I for “I feel like I might die,” and S for sleepy or confused. Sepsis is a medical emergency. In particular, if you’re lightheaded, or confused or breathing faster than 20 times a minute, calling 911 so the paramedics can initiate sepsis care and take you to the hospital where you can be evaluated and treated quickly is of great importance. Unlike trauma or cardiac arrest where the moment of the event is well-known and well identified, sepsis can start insidiously: You’re a little sick, you stay home, you’re a little sicker the next day. Just good general prevention of infection is the key. Having good habits: Washing your hands before you eat, washing your hands when you come back from being out and about, wearing a mask if you have a cough, and, honestly, not going to work sick. I do think families can make a difference, and patients, by advocating. I think that simple phrase so the doctor can hear: “I’m concerned that this could be sepsis,” could really improve the care in the primary care setting.

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