Sepsis is an increasingly serious healthcare puzzle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between one million and three million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis annually, and 15 to 30 percent of them will die. Sepsis most commonly occurs in patients over 65, but children and people with compromised immune systems are also susceptible.
Sepsis is treatable with antibiotics and IV fluids, but it first has to be considered as a cause. The CDC is beginning a major campaign to educate care takers, parents, and doctors to all consider sepsis when treating a seriously ill person. The key, says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director for the CDC, is getting people to ask, out loud, “Can this be sepsis?” or “I think we need to consider sepsis.”
Sepsis can be diagnosed by assessing symptoms and through lab tests.
Symptoms of Sepsis
Sepsis doesn’t have a singular sign or symptom; rather, it is a combination of symptoms. This is one of the reasons it is easy for healthcare providers to overlook.
- Shivering, chills, or feeling very cold
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy, sweaty skin
- High heart rate
How to Prevent Sepsis
1. Get vaccinated and vaccinate your children according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines. Most vaccinations, like those for flu or pneumonia, can prevent infections.
2. Prevent infections that could lead to sepsis by treating scrapes and wounds, and practicing good hygiene.
3. Learn the signs and symptoms of sepsis. If you suspect sepsis, seek immediate medical care. It is considered a medical emergency.
As the CDC seeks to raise awareness of sepsis, it is providing a wealth of clinical resources. The International Guidelines for Management of Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock: 2012 were updated by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign (SSC). The CDC Sepsis site contains links to many external resources, such as clinical guidelines, bundles, education including training courses and CME, and screening tools.
For more information, you can also visit the Sepsis Alliance site.