Sepsis awareness can be a life saver


Have you ever heard of sepsis?  It’s pronounced SEP-sis, it’s a serious complication of an infection and it can kill you.

When it occurs your body releases chemicals into your bloodstream to fight the infection.  As described on the Mayo Clinic’s web site, these chemicals can inflame your organs and even cause them to fail.  This can progress to septic shock; your blood pressure drops dramatically and you might die.  Treatment requires medical attention right away.

“Could this be sepsis?”

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, about 7 in 10 patients with sepsis had used health care services recently or had chronic diseases that required frequent medical care. So, the CDC is has just started an awareness campaign, encouraging health care providers, patients and families to work as a team to be alert to the problem. “When sepsis occurs,” says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, “it should be treated as a medical emergency. Doctors and nurses can prevent sepsis and also the devastating effects…and patients and families can watch for sepsis and ask, ‘could this be sepsis?’”

In order to successfully treat sepsis it’s important to recognize it early.  Its symptoms include: shivering, fever, or feeling very cold; extreme pain or discomfort; clammy or sweaty skin; confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath and a high heart rate.  

Old, young and ill are sepsis-prone

Certain people with an infection are the most likely to get sepsis, including people 65 years or older, infants less than 1 year old, people who have weakened immune systems, and people who have chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes).  The CDC says that infections of the lung, urinary tract, skin, and gut most often led to it. It’s much less common, but even healthy children and adults can develop sepsis from an infection.

The CDC recommends that health care providers:

  • Prevent infections by following infection control requirements (such as handwashing) and ensuring that patients to get recommended vaccines (e.g., flu and pneumococcal).
  • Educate patients and their families of the need to prevent infections, manage chronic conditions, and, if an infection is not improving, seek care without delay.
  • Know the signs and symptoms to identify and treat patients earlier.
  • Act fast. If sepsis is suspected, order tests to help determine if an infection is present, where it is, and what caused it. Start antibiotics and other recommended medical care immediately.

About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at Rx411. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years. This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns. He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C.