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Health Tips: How to Spot the Signs of Sepsis

by Karen Rollins Nov 25, 2019

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Close up on hand medical technicians working on bacterial culture

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a deadly illness which kills thousands of people every year.

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 1.7 million cases of sepsis each year in the US, and 270,000 Americans die because of sepsis annually.

One of the reasons why so many people are killed by sepsis is a lack of awareness about the symptoms. The illness can come on suddenly, and if not treated immediately, can lead to organ failure and death.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by the body’s immune system overreacting to an infection or injury.

A normal immune system fights germs and infections, but sometimes this protection method goes into overdrive, and the body starts attacking its own organs and tissues.

Anyone can develop sepsis following an injury or minor infection.

What are the signs of sepsis?

Initially, the symptoms of sepsis can feel like flu, a chest infection, or gastroenteritis. The symptoms are different for adults and children and there’s no one sign of the illness.

Some of the symptoms include:

– patches of mottled / discolored skin

– decreased urination

– a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit or a temperature below 96.8

– heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute

– breathing rate higher than 20 breaths per minute

– severe breathlessness

– chills / extreme shivering

– slurred speech

– extreme weakness

– severe muscle pain

– feeling like you are going to die

– probable or confirmed infection

A child may have sepsis if they are very cold to the touch, lethargic or hard to wake. Other possible signs are a fit or convulsion, a rash that does not fade when you press it, not eating or urinating, or vomiting repeatedly. 

How is sepsis treated?

Sepsis is usually treated with antibiotics, but these need to be given as quickly as possible to improve chances of survival.

Can you recover from sepsis?

The UK Sepsis Trust says it can take up to 18 months before sepsis survivors start to feel well again. A lot of people make a full recovery, but some are left with long-term health issues such as damaged organs, insomnia, and fatigue.

Sepsis is a serious illness which can result in death if it’s not treated quickly. Do not hesitate to get medical attention if you think you, or someone else, has sepsis.

Sources: The Sepsis Trust / Healthline / UK NHS