September is Sepsis Awareness month and the perfect time to learn more about this potentially devastating, often life-altering condition. It affects more than a million Americans every year, and between 15-30 percent of patients with sepsis do not survive – yet many have never heard of this condition.
So, what is it? Put simply, sepsis is the body’s toxic response to an infection. It is an extreme inflammatory response that causes swelling, and is frequently caused by a bacterial or viral infection, such as pneumonia or the flu, but can also be caused by other infections that occur in the skin, lungs, urinary tract, or other parts of the body. Anyone can get sepsis, but those most at risk include:
- People with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
- Adults age 65 and older
- People with weakened immune systems
- Children younger than 1 year old
Timely treatment is critical to surviving sepsis. While most physicians and nurses are trained to recognize sepsis, if you have an infection that isn’t healing, or feel worse days after a surgery, ask your provider, “Could this be sepsis?”
The Sepsis Alliance recommends using TIME to assess whether a person could possibly have sepsis:
- T: Temperature, higher or lower than normal
- I: Infection, may have signs and symptoms of an infection
- M: Mental decline, where a person is confused, sleepy or difficult to rouse
- E: Extremely ill, where the person feels severe pain and discomfort
Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or get to an emergency room immediately. Let the medical team know that you are concerned about sepsis. The earlier sepsis is caught, the better chance for a full recovery.
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