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September is Sepsis Awareness Month: What you need to know

Community news | Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Contact: Dave Ommen

King's Daughters' Health, in conjunction with the Indiana Patient Safety Center of the Indiana Hospital Association, is working to improve awareness and understanding of sepsis during national Sepsis Awareness Month in September.

One of the first objectives is to answer a basic question: What is Sepsis? Often, sepsis is thought of as an infection that has spread throughout the body. In reality, sepsis is the body's overwhelming and potentially life-threatening response to an infection that can cause the body to injure its own tissues, such as skin, muscle, heart, liver, lungs, or kidneys.

Any type of infection can cause sepsis, even seemingly minor infections of the skin, so it's important to understand the potential warning signs of sepsis. Locally, urinary tract infections and pneumonia (or other lung infections) tend to be the most common causes of sepsis. Those most at risk of developing sepsis are the young (under age 10) and the elderly (over age 65). Additional risk factors include: a weakened immune system, having a Foley catheter or IV, and having a chronic illness such as diabetes, or kidney or liver disease.

Symptoms/Warning signs of sepsis

While symptoms of sepsis can include diarrhea, vomiting, and sore throat, it's also common for someone with sepsis to display more serious, rapidly appearing symptoms, such as:

  • An elevated fever – associated with shivering, chills, or feeling very cold;
  • Extreme pain or discomfort, or progressively feeling worse than ever;
  • Pale or discolored skin;
  • Rapid or difficulty breathing, compared to your normal rate;
  • Sleepiness, confusion, or difficulty waking up;

If you or someone you know develops any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor right away or go to your nearest emergency room. Be sure to tell your doctor that you think you might have sepsis. Be honest about how you feel and do not dismiss or downplay symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment are important.

To reduce the risk of sepsis, health professionals encourage patients of all ages to stay updated with their vaccinations, get a flu shot each year, clean scrapes and wounds, and practice good hand hygiene, such as handwashing. If you have specific questions, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

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