What is Sepsis? What are the signs and symptoms that I should look for? Sepsis can develop into a very serious condition that requires hospitalization if not treated early. Thousands of people die every year related to this infection within the body, because it is caught too late. In later stages it begins to destroy the organs and tissues within the body. Early treatment with antibiotics can prevent the disease process from progressing to that stage. So what exactly is sepsis?
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is defined by the CDC as:
“Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is a life-threatening medical emergency. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have —in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.”
So what exactly does this mean. We have all experience an infection of some sort. Infections like Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), Kidney or Bladder infections, Cellulitis, and Otitis Media (Ear Infections). Usually we end up going to our doctor to get an antibiotic to fight off the infection. Sometimes people don’t go to their doctor, and try to fight off the infection themselves. If our immune system is low, what ends up happening is the body is unable to fight off the infection causing the bacteria to continue to increase within the body.
With Sepsis, when the bacteria build up to high enough levels, it ends up entering the blood stream within the body. At this point the infection has now began traveling throughout the body. While the infection travels through the body it begins to deposit the bacteria in other areas. Once this happens it now becomes a systemic disease.
A systemic disease is defined by Medlineplus.gov as:
“Systemic means affecting the entire body, rather than a single organ or body part. For example, systemic disorders, such as high blood pressure, or systemic diseases, such as the flu, affect the entire body. An infection that is in the bloodstream is called a systemic infection.”
Once Sepsis has turned into a systemic infection you must get treatment immediately. This now has become a serious problem. You must get immediate treatment at a hospital to prevent damage to your organs.
Who can get Sepsis?
of any age group can get Sepsis. Even though the disease can hit any age group, there are individuals that are more susceptible. The individuals that are more susceptible are:
- Immunocompromised individuals
- Elderly people
- Baby and young children
- People with Chronic illnesses – Diabetes, Kidney/Liver disease, Cancer
- Damage to the skin such as severe burns or cellulitis
Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis
You don’t start off with sepsis. What happens at the beginning is you end up with a bacterial or viral infection somewhere in the body or of the skin. As stated before, if the infection goes untreated it can turn into sepsis within the body. The immune system is not able to fight off the infection. The infection will continue to build up within the body it has nowhere else to go. It will enter the bloodstream causing many signs and symptoms.
Early Signs and Symptoms to look for are:
- Feeling Cold
- Flu like symptoms – Body aches/discomfort
- Been sick for a period of time without getting better
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Low Blood Pressure
Later Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis:
- Shortness of Breath
- Extreme Weakness
- Rapid Breathing
- Altered Level of Consciousness
- Skin Discoloration – Due to Organ Failure
- Decrease in Urine Output
Once you get to the later signs and symptoms of the disease you are in serious trouble to which you will need to go to the hospital immediately for IV Antibiotics to fight the infection that has now traveled throughout the body. If the infection goes untreated it can lead to death. If you, or someone you know, have the signs and symptoms of Sepsis you should call 911, and go to the hospital as soon as possible.
Things We Can Do To Help Prevent Sepsis Infection
One of the best treatments to prevent Sepsis is to get vaccinated. Getting your flu shot, pneumonia shot, and any other vaccinations that can help you prevent getting a serious infection. This is absolutely true for the elderly or those with Chronic illnesses. Protection from illness is extremely important.
Prevention starts with ourselves. Taking care of our bodies will help keep infection from entering the body in the first place. Bathing and keeping our skin clean and dry will help keep your skin healthy preventing an avenue for the infection to enter the body. Paying close attention to under folds of skin to prevent skin breakdown causing rashes. If you have scrapes, cuts, or open areas on your body it is important to keep them clean and dry because that is the perfect place bacteria and virus like to enter our body.
If you have a chronic illness such as diabetes, kidney or liver disease it is important to be compliant with your treatments and take your medications regularly. We can prevent most illnesses with just have a strong immune system. Even if you are immunocompromised you can help protect yourself with proper diet, exercise, compliance with your medications, and drinking plenty of water to allow your body to remove waste within your body.
Treatment for Sepsis
Sepsis causes millions of people a year to become ill requiring treatment within a hospital. Most of the time when people go to the Emergency Room they waited too long allowing the infection to spread. Once you have a diagnosis of Sepsis you will be admitted to the hospital on either the Acute Medical/Surgical Unit or Intensive Care Unit depending on the severity of your case.
If your diagnosis is caught early enough you will go to the Acute Med/Surg unit for treatments such as:
- IV Antibiotics
- Fluid Replacement to provide hydration for the body, organs, and increase blood pressure if low.
- Medications to treat symptoms such as pain, fever, and shortness of breath, inflammation
Severe cases of Sepsis will require the Intensive Care Unit for treatments of:
- IV Antibiotics
- Intubation (mechanical ventilation) for severe respiratory distress or failure
- Medications to control fever, low blood pressure, and control any organ issues.
- Supportive care to treat the symptoms the patient presents with
The most important treatment is to start immediate antibiotics to start getting rid of the infection from the blood.
Sepsis is extremely dangers if left unchecked. The key is to catch any infections early before they get out of control. If you are sick for longer than 14 days it is important to go and see your doctor. Starting a course of oral antibiotics will start the process of getting better. Compliance of your medications and proper hygiene will keep your body in good health, and prevent infections from getting into the body.
Thousands of people die every year because the infection process was left unchecked for weeks or even months without treatment. The best we can do to prevent Sepsis is to begin with a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. This will help to boost our immune system to fight off infections.
Your doctor will know what is best to treat your infection depending on where it is located in your body. Blood work and blood cultures will help your provider pick the best course of treatment. So get checked early to prevent Sepsis.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you learned something please feel free to comment and share it with your friends, or in your groups to spread the message about this serious infection. September is Sepsis Awareness month. As we are dealing with Covid-19, we must also remember Flu season is coming upon us in just a few short months. Please be safe and wash your hands, use hand sanitizer when appropriate, and wear a mask when around others. Please click on the buttons to share on your social media accounts to help save lives.