Sepsis, often referred to as “septicemia” or “blood poisoning,” is a toxic response to an infection. Any infection, even those that may seem minor, can lead to your body developing sepsis. Sepsis can occur in anyone at any age and is life threatening. Those at increased risk of sepsis include infants, seniors and those with diseases or treatments that compromise the immune system, such as cancer.

Physicians work to diagnose sepsis based on an exam that includes temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and lab tests for signs of infection. Patients with sepsis are often treated in the Critical Care Department at Maury Regional Medical Center. Those diagnosed with sepsis must receive antibiotics and intravenous fluids as quickly as possible. The antibiotics fight the infection while the fluids help to make sure enough blood and oxygen gets to your cells and tissues. 

There is no single sign or symptom of sepsis; however, warning signs may include one or more of the following:

• Fever
• Chills
• Pain
• Dizziness
• Shortness of breath
• Confusion
• Sleepiness

Anyone experiencing symptoms of sepsis should seek immediate treatment. Timely antibiotics and fluids have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of death from sepsis. Seek immediate treatment, tell your physician or nurse about any cuts or infections, and ask about your risk for sepsis. Limiting your exposure to infections can limit your risk of developing sepsis. It is recommended that you:

• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
• Care for wounds by keeping them clean to avoid infection
• Obtain immunizations against illnesses, including influenza and pneumonia