Each year, at least 1.7 million Americans develop sepsis, and nearly 270,000 die as a result. While anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis, only 55 percent of Americans have heard of sepsis.
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have – in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else – triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.
Start the conversation about sepsis today with your doctor or nurse using these five questions:
1. How can I protect myself from sepsis? It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of sepsis, and act fast if sepsis is suspected. Signs and symptoms of sepsis can include one or a combination of any of the following: confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath; high heart rate; fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold; extreme pain or discomfort; and clammy or sweaty skin. An infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse can lead to sepsis. Get medical care immediately if you suspect sepsis.
2. How can I prevent infections? Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections that can lead to sepsis. To prevent infections, take good care of chronic conditions and get recommended vaccines. Also, practice good hygiene like washing your hands and keeping cuts clean and covered until healed.
3. Who is at higher risk for developing sepsis? Certain people are at higher risk, including adults 65 or older; people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease; people with weakened immune systems; and children younger than one.
4. How do I know if my infection could be leading to sepsis? If you or your loved one suspects 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?” ACT FAST and get medical care IMMEDIATELY.
5. How can sepsis be treated? A person who develops sepsis should be treated with antibiotics) as soon as possible, in addition to other therapies that the doctor or nurse decides are appropriate for that patient, such as maintaining blood flow to organs or receiving intravenous (IV) fluids. A doctor or nurse should also check on the patient frequently and reassess antibiotic therapy within 24-48 hours to stop or adjust therapy as needed.
Remember, sepsis is a medical emergency. Improved recognition and timely treatment of sepsis increases your chances of survival and decreases the likelihood of long-term effects.
To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, visit www.cdc.gov/sepsis. To learn more about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.