This month is designated as the month for individuals from the community and healthcare professionals to join together in the fight against sepsis. Health care organizations, big and small are helping to save lives by raising awareness to the leading cause of deaths in U.S. hospitals – Sepsis.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. Without timely identification and treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis occurs when an infection that is already present triggers a chain reaction throughout the body. The most common infections that lead to sepsis are pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and infections of the skin and abdomen.
Who gets sepsis?
Sepsis is a very serious and potentially life threatening illness. The World Health Organization estimates that sepsis affects more than 30 million people worldwide each year with approximately six million of these cases resulting in death. In the U.S., someone dies from sepsis every two minutes making it the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals. According to the Sepsis Alliance, many of these lives could have been spared if there was an increase in public awareness and early identification of the illness.
What are the symptoms associated with sepsis?
Despite the high mortality rate associated with sepsis, many Americans state that they have never heard of it. Like most illnesses, prevention, early identification, and timely treatment are key factors in mitigating sepsis.
Symptoms to look for at home include:
• Shivering, fever, or cold
• Extreme pain, general discomfort
• Pale or discolored skin
• Sleepy or difficult to rouse
• “I feel the worse I ever have”
• Short of breath
Who acquires sepsis?
According to the National Institute of Health, anyone can become ill with sepsis. Sepsis does not discriminate. Those at highest risk are infants, children, the elderly, and those with chronic medical issues such as cancer, AIDS, liver disease and diabetes.
How is sepsis treated?
Research shows that early identification and timely treatment are the most effective ways to treat sepsis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that treatment includes administering antibiotics and intravenous fluids, maintaining blood flow to organs and treating the underlying source of the infection.
If you or a loved one has any of the aforementioned symptoms, please go to your nearest emergency department for expert medical care. Stay safe and enjoy fall.
Jennifer Foss, MSN, NEA-BC, RN-BC, is the director of emergency services for Bristol Health.