Skip to main content

Sepsis Awareness Month: What you need to know

Community news | Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Contact: Dave Ommen

September is Sepsis Awareness Month. Throughout the month, King's Daughters' Health will be educating its staff and community about the importance of sepsis awareness. Learn more at

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body's overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death. The reality is that sepsis can be confusing and hard to diagnose. It shares many symptoms, such as fever and difficulty breathing, with other conditions. What might seem like a simple, run-of-the-mill, flu-like illness can actually be a silent killer.

While sepsis can affect anyone, patients more at risk are those who:

  • are under age 1 and over age 65;
  • have a weakened immune system or chronic illness (diabetes, cancer, liver disease, kidney disease);
  • have a severe burn or wound;
  • have an indwelling catheter or IV;
  • recently had surgery or have been hospitalized.

Here are some FAQ's about sepsis:

What causes sepsis? Any type of infection, anywhere in the body, can cause sepsis. However, four types of infections are most often linked with sepsis - lungs (pneumonia), kidney (urinary tract infection), skin (new or worsening injury), and abdomen/gut.

What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis? There is no single sign or symptom of sepsis. Because sepsis stems from an infection, symptoms can include common infection signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, and sore throat. Additionally, symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Shivering, fever, feeling very cold;
  • Extreme pain or feeling worse than ever;
  • Pale or discolored skin;
  • Sleepiness, difficulty waking up, confusion;
  • I feel like I might die;
  • Shortness of breath;

If someone has an infection to go along with any of these symptoms they should seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

How is sepsis treated? Sepsis is a serious complication of infection that should be treated in a hospital. Healthcare providers typically administer antibiotics and work to treat the infection, keep vital organs healthy, and prevent a drop in blood pressure. In some cases, additional treatment may be necessary.

How can I prevent sepsis? While there is no way to completely prevent sepsis, there are ways of reducing your risk. Be vaccinated - protecting yourself against the flu, pneumonia, and other infections helps you avoid opportunities to acquire sepsis. Be thorough - properly clean and treat scrapes and wounds, practice good hygiene. Be vigilant - if you have an infection, watch for signs like fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, confusion, and/or disorientation.

Are there any long-term effects of sepsis? Many sepsis survivors recover completely and return to normal lives. However, some people may experience organ damage or tissue loss and may encounter longer-lasting effects. Others may experience a condition known as post-sepsis syndrome, which can cause such symptoms as muscle weakness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, difficulty sleeping, difficulty swallowing, sadness, and/or anxiety.

For additional information from the Indiana Patient Safety Center of the Indiana Hospital Association, visit

Subscribe to This Week in Health to get the latest health news delivered to your inbox.