Suspect Sepsis: Save Someone's Life
What you can do to help
What is Sepsis?
Sepsis is a toxic response to infection that kills more than 258,000 Americans each year - more than breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer combined. Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires early detection and treatment for survival.
Why should I be concerned?
Sepsis can occur to anyone at any time. Any infection can lead to your body developing Sepsis. Sepsis not only kills thousands of people, it leaves many more with amputations of limbs, body organs that don't work properly, psychological distress and more.
What are the risk factors for Sepsis?
While anyone can get Sepsis, some people are at higher risk. This includes the very young and the elderly, patients with certain chronic diseases, like cancer and liver disease and people taking medications that affect the infection fighting (immune) system. Ask your doctor if you are at higher risk.
- Any type of infection can cause Sepsis. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites.
- An infection anywhere in your body can lead to Sepsis but the most common infections causing Sepsis are pneumonia, urinary tract infections and infections in the belly.
Can Sepsis be treated?
Yes, Sepsis can be treated but it must be suspected first. People with Sepsis must receive antibiotics and intravenous fluids (administered through an IV) as quickly as possible. The antibiotics fight the infection while the fluids help to make sure enough blood and oxygen get to your cells and tissues.
Can Sepsis be prevented?
We don't know yet exactly why Sepsis occurs. We do know that by limiting your exposure to infections, you limit your risk of developing Sepsis.
- Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently
- Caring for wounds, keeping them clean and avoid infection
- Asking your doctor if you need vaccinations against illnesses like influenza and pneumonia
What should I do if I am worried that I or someone I care about has Sepsis?
Unfortunately, there is no single sign or symptom of Sepsis. The most common report from Sepsis survivors is that the symptoms they were feeling - fever, chills, pain, shortness of breath - were the worst they had every felt. Other warning signs to pay particular attention to are dizziness, confusion or being less responsive or unable to be awakened. We have all had colds. Sepsis is more severe than a cold.
If you are worried about Sepsis and at home, you should call 9-1-1. Studies suggest early care in an ambulance can make it more likely you will survive. Tell health care providers, "I am concerned about Sepsis." This gives them a specific concern to address. Remember that Sepsis is also a common complication of people hospitalized for other reasons. So, if you are feeling worse after surgery or a loved one is not continuing to get better, insist that Sepsis be considered.
Once of the easiest ways to prevent Sepsis is by making sure that no one touches you in the hospital unless you see them wash their hands. This is the greatest protection against infections and Sepsis in the hospital.
Why haven't I heard about Sepsis?
You aren't alone. A recent national survey found that less than half of American have ever heard of Sepsis. Sepsis may occur in a patient battling other conditions, such as cancer or stroke. A lack of awareness of Sepsis makes it easier to refer to these deaths as complications of the prior condition rather than from Sepsis. Sepsis is also often referred to in the media as "septicemia" or "blood poisoning" - increasing confusion.
What can I do to help?
Education and awareness about Sepsis - both recognizing Sepsis and treating - is vital.
You can help
Say the word
- If you suspect you or a loved one is developing Sepsis, ask your doctor or nurse right away and mention the word "Sepsis".
Spread the word
- Tell friends, co-workers, and loved ones to look out for the warning sign of Sepsis.
Support the cause
- Help Sepsis Alliance get the word out about the dangers of Sepsis through volunteering, hosting a fundraiser or making a donation.