Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection. For reasons that are not well-understood, sepsis develops when an individual’s immune system suddenly stops fighting an infection and instead fuels it.
When a person is septic, the body releases immune chemicals into the blood. These chemicals trigger widespread inflammation, which can impair blood flow and lead to tissue damage, organ failure, or death.
Sepsis is preventable and treatable in most cases with early recognition. That’s why it’s critical to be aware of sepsis and to recognize the symptoms.
While most Americans have heard of sepsis, only 12 percent can identify the most common symptoms. While there is no single symptom of sepsis, signs of sepsis can include a combination of the following:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Fever or shivering – or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
“Improving care of patients with sepsis is a priority at each Tower Health hospital,” said Debra Powell, MD, Chief, Section of Infectious Diseases and Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Reading Hospital. “Each of our hospitals have a multidisciplinary team committed to the goal of expediting care to patients suspected of having sepsis to achieve the best outcomes for the individual.”
Anyone can develop sepsis, but those most at-risk include children younger than one, adults age 65 or older, and individuals with chronic diseases and weakened immune systems. Prevention of sepsis includes following a general hygiene plan, washing your hands, and taking care of any open wounds. If a patient in an emergency room or hospital is suspected of being septic, the hospital will give antibiotics and IV fluids and will conduct tests to determine the condition and best course of treatment.
“When it comes to sepsis, it’s all about TIME – Temperature, Infection, Mental Decline, Extremely ill,” said Amit Gangoli, MD, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases at Phoenixville Hospital. “If you know the signs, you can get to a hospital in time to save a life. Sepsis is a medical emergency and takes more lives than prostate cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.”
Take time during Sepsis Awareness Month to educate yourself about the symptoms of severe infection and sepsis. If you think you may be septic alert a medical professional immediately or call 911 and say, “I am concerned about sepsis.”
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