Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening, or toxic response. to an infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis is a true medical emergency just like a stroke or heart attack and can lead to septic shock. The immune system fights germs like bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites to prevent infection. For reasons unknown, sometimes the immune system stops fighting these germs and begins to turn on itself.
In 2011, Sepsis Alliance declared September to be Sepsis Awareness Month, an annual opportunity for individuals, healthcare professionals, and organizations to help save lives by raising awareness of the leading cause of death in United States hospitals.
The Sepsis Alliance explains that some people are at high risk for developing sepsis because they are at a higher risk of contracting an infection, and it can include the very young to the very old, those with chronic illnesses, and those with a weakened or impaired immune system.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion or disorientation.
If you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms, it is critical to call 911 and seek emergency medical treatment.
Are You at Risk for Sepsis?
The obvious risk factor is an infection. The infection could include a small cut or bug bite, a diagnosed urinary tract infection, pneumonia, or many other infections our bodies must fight daily. Some individuals like those with weakened immune systems, chronic illness, diabetes, and cancer have a higher risk of developing sepsis. It is important to be aware of your health, take necessary precautions, promptly receive treatment for infections, and be aware of the warning signs of sepsis.
Prevent of Sepsis
Prevention of sepsis is important. Some ways to prevent sepsis include:
- Hand washing
- Seeing your physician when you are not feeling well
- Being current on your vaccinations
- Properly caring for and cleaning all wounds
- If taking antibiotics, follow the regiment established by your physician.
Hospitals and Sepsis
Hospitals and healthcare professionals take the risk of sepsis very seriously and establish strictly followed guidelines to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the occurrence of sepsis. Hospitals are required to have the following guidelines in place:
- All people who enter a patient’s room must wash their hands, before and after leaving the room, even if they are wearing gloves
- Patient rooms, as well as common areas, must be cleaned regularly
- All medical equipment is washed down and sterilized
- Invasive procedures are limited to the shortest amount of time possible
- Healthcare providers must correctly observe sterile processes when performing procedures, such as changing a dressing or inserting catheters
- Patient rooms must be well-ventilated
- Staff must monitor patients closely for any signs of infection.
If you are a patient in the hospital, you can assist in ensuring your safety:
- Ask your healthcare providers and visitors to wash their hands, even if they wore gloves
- Report any signs or symptoms of infection to the nursing staff
- Keep individuals who may be ill from visiting you in the hospital.
For more information on sepsis, please visit https://www.sepsis.org/.
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