Not many people are aware of sepsis, and even fewer understand this illness. But each year, it kills more Americans than opioids, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined. September is Sepsis Awareness Month and a perfect time to get educated on this topic.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis is an illness caused by the body overreacting to an infection. It can start in many ways, including something as simple as an infected cut on your skin.
When a body is infected, it is the immune system’s job to fight off the infection. However, when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight infection become unbalanced, it can trigger changes that lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.
Sepsis can happen to anyone, even someone who is healthy. But infants, older adults and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk. Anyone who is more likely to get an infection is more likely to develop sepsis.
Sepsis can happen very quickly. That’s why it’s important to know the early signs of sepsis.
Recognizing the signs of sepsis
The Sepsis Alliance suggests using the acronym TIME as an easy way to remember the symptoms of sepsis. If you or your loved one experiences these symptoms, especially a combination of them, seek immediate medical attention.
Temperature: The person’s temperature could be higher or lower than normal.
Infection: Any kind of infection can lead to sepsis. Be extra alert to signs of infection is the person has had a medical procedure recently or has been exposed to an illness.
Mental Decline: The person might be confused, abnormally sleepy, or difficult to wake up. If the person has dementia, it might seem worse.
Extremely Ill: The person might feel so sick that it feels like they might die. Or they could experience extreme pain or discomfort.
How to prevent sepsis
Because sepsis happens in response to an infection, anything you can do to prevent an infection will help prevent sepsis. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you and your loved ones get any recommended vaccinations at the appropriate ages and times.
- If you have a chronic condition like diabetes or kidney disease, take good care of yourself. Manage your illness to minimize the possibility of infections.
- Wash your hands often.
- Clean any cuts and wear a bandage over them until they have healed.
- Be aware of the signs of sepsis.
- If you think you or a loved one might have sepsis, seek medical care right away. Sepsis is a medical emergency.
Find and schedule an appointment with a Bon Secours physician near you.