Sepsis Awareness: What You Should Know

Many are unaware of this serious condition that can result in fatal complications.

What You Need to Know about Sepsis 

Sepsis takes the lives of over 18 children each day in the United States. Yet many Americans are unaware of this serious condition that can result in fatal complications.

Sepsis Alliance’s annual sepsis awareness survey reveals awareness of sepsis reached a new high.

Unfortunately, the survey results also show that sepsis symptoms are not well known. Only 12 percent of those surveyed knew the symptoms of sepsis. There is a lack of urgency in seeking medical attention.

Mortality from sepsis increases by as much as eight percent for every hour that treatment is delayed. Rapid diagnosis and treatment could prevent as many as 80 percent of sepsis deaths.

Yet three out of four people strongly agree it is important to respond urgently to signs of a stroke. Only half would do the same for signs of sepsis – despite it being twice as common and deadly as stroke.

It’s About Time

To remedy this situation, the Sepsis Alliance is rolling out “It’s About TIME. “It’s about TIME” is intended to spread awareness of sepsis symptoms:

  • T = Temperature – higher or lower than normal
  • I = Infection – may have signs and symptoms of infection
  • M = Mental decline – confused, sleepy, difficult to arouse.
  • E = Extremely ill – “I feel like I might die”; severe pain or discomfort
What is sepsis? 

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening medical condition. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection causes widespread inflammation throughout the body.

What are the symptoms of sepsis? 

Sepsis is characterized by a combination of these common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Organ dysfunction

In severe cases, it can lead to septic shock. A condition where blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels, causing multiple organ failure and a higher risk of death.

What are the causes of sepsis?  

Sepsis is primarily caused by infections, but it can develop from a variety of sources. It can come from the following areas:

  • Bacterial Infections: These can include infections like pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin infections (cellutitis), and intra-abdominal infections (appendicitis, diverticulitis).
  • Viral Infections: Sepsis can also result from certain viral infections, such as severe cases of the flu (influenza) or herpes. This is less common.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungal infections, though less common, can lead to sepsis, especially in individuals with weakened immune systems.
  • Parasitic Infections: Parasitic infections, such as malaria, can trigger sepsis, especially in regions where these diseases are prevalent.
  • Respiratory Infections: Severe lung infections, like pneumonia, can quickly progress to sepsis if not treated promptly.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: If left untreated or if the infection spreads to the bloodstream, a UTI can lead to a sepsis.
  • Skin Infections: Skin infections, such as cellulitis or infected wounds, can lead to sepsis if bacteria enter the bloodstream.
  • Gastrointestinal Infections: Infections in the gastrointestinal tract or abdominal cavity can result in sepsis if bacteria escape into the blood stream.

Who is at risk for sepsis?  

Sepsis can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but certain individuals are at a higher risk of developing sepsis.

Both the very young and the elderly are at increased risk. Newborns and infants, as well as older adults, have weaker immune systems. This can make them more vulnerable to infections that can lead to sepsis.

What antibiotics treat sepsis?  

The choice of antibiotics to treat sepsis depends on several factors, including:

  • The suspected or identified source of infection,
  • The type of microorganisms causing the infection (bacteria, viruses, fungi),
  • The local patterns of antibiotic resistance.

Empirical antibiotic therapy is initiated before the specific pathogen causing the infection is identified. This is often used in the early stages of sepsis.

Common antibiotics used to treat sepsis and suspected bacterial infections include:

  • Broad-Spectrum Antibiotics
  • Vancomycin or Teicoplanin
  • Aminoglycosides
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Antifungal Medications
  • Antiviral Medications
Is sepsis contagious?  

Sepsis itself is not contagious. Sepsis is a medical condition that results from the body’s response to an infection. It occurs within a person’s own body.

What are the three stages of sepsis?  

Sepsis is typically described in terms of stages or severity. The progression from one stage to the next indicates an escalation of the condition.

Sepsis: This is the initial stage of the condition. It is characterized by the body’s systemic response to an infection.

Severe Sepsis: Severe sepsis occurs when sepsis progresses and affects one or more organs or organ system.

Septic Shock: Septic shock is the most severs stage of sepsis. It is characterized by a significant drop in blood pressure that does not respond adequately to fluid resuscitation.

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