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Understanding Sepsis Saves Lives

Published on September 18, 2023

Sepsis, a life-threatening condition that claims millions of lives worldwide, remains largely misunderstood and unknown by too many. September is Sepsis Awareness Month and is a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on this silent killer.

What is sepsis?
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to an infection goes awry, causing an extreme reaction that can damage organs, lead to organ failure or death. This can happen to anyone, regardless of age or health status.

What causes sepsis?
Infections can put you or your loved one at risk for sepsis. When germs enter a person's body, it can cause an infection. If you don't stop that infection, it can cause sepsis. Bacterial infections cause most cases of sepsis. Sepsis can also be a result of other infections, including viral infections, such as COVID-19 or influenza, or fungal infections. Most cases of sepsis start before a patient goes to the hospital and often start in the lung, urinary tract, skin, or gastrointestinal tract. While it can happen to anyone, most people who develop sepsis have at least one underlying medical condition, such as chronic lung disease or a weakened immune system.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?
Recognizing the signs of sepsis is crucial in initiating timely treatment. Common indicators of sepsis include:
• Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
• Rapid heart rate or rapid breathing
• confusion or disorientation
• extreme fatigue
• pale or clammy skin
• shortness of breath
• decreased urine output
• severe pain

What do you do when you suspect sepsis?
If you or someone you know is showing signs or symptoms of sepsis, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention. Call emergency services or rush to the nearest emergency department without delay. Inform the healthcare provider about your concerns and provide a detailed description of the signs and symptoms. Quick intervention can significantly improve the chances of survival and minimize the long-term effects of sepsis.

What can you do to reduce the risk of sepsis?
By adopting simple yet effective measures, you can reduce the risk of infection and sepsis:
• Practice good hand hygiene.
• Stay up to date with vaccinations.
• Take care of wounds and monitor for signs of infection.
• Manage chronic conditions.

Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. By understanding the signs, taking prompt action, and preventing infections, lives can be saved.

Article contributed by Memorial Community Health Antibiotic Stewardship Committee.