Sepsis is a medical emergency that stems from the body's toxic response to an infection. It can be caused by minor infections, such as a small cut, or a more serious condition, such as a urinary tract infection, bloodstream infection or pneumonia. It is a life-threatening illness that involves tissue damage and organ failure. It can occur in anyone at any age. 

Sepsis is caused by an infection, including those that may initially seem minor. Those at increased risk for developing sepsis include infants, seniors and those with diseases or treatments that compromise the immune system, such as cancer or HIV.

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

  • Symptoms typically associated with an infection, such as chills or fever
  • Confusion, sleepiness or mental decline
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe pain or discomfort
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Sweaty or clammy skin

Anyone experiencing symptoms of sepsis should seek medical treatment immediately. If your physician’s office is closed, seek treatment in an urgent care clinic or emergency department. Tell your physician or nurse about any cuts or infections and ask about your risk for sepsis.

At Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, patients with sepsis are typically treated in the Critical Care Department, receiving antibiotics and intravenous fluids as quickly as possible. These antibiotics fight the infection as the fluids help to ensure enough blood and oxygen are getting to the body’s cells and tissues.

Visit or our sepsis resources page for more information about symptoms of sepsis.