Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, kills about 258,000 Americans per year, making it one of the most common causes of death in hospitals. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines sepsis as a complication caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis can be caused by any infection, even a minor one. The most common infections that lead to sepsis are of the lungs (e.g., pneumonia), urinary tract (e.g., kidney), skin, and gut. The germs most often linked to sepsis are E. coli, staph, and strep.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- Vomiting, sore throat, and diarrhea
- Shivering, fever, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
Since sepsis presents the same symptoms as other common problems, it is hard to diagnose in its early stages. This is troublesome because patients who begin treatment early tend to recover while those whose treatment begins later face a higher mortality rate.
To prevent sepsis, you must prevent the infections that cause sepsis. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated for the u, pneumonia, and other infections; to practice good hygiene (especially hand washing); and to properly treat any cuts and scrapes. If you suspect that you or a loved one is presenting the early signs of sepsis, treat it as a medical emergency and seek help immediately.