This is a post prepared under a contract funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and written on behalf of the Mom It Forward Influencer Network for use in CDC’s Get Ahead of Sepsis educational effort. Opinions on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CDC.
Some years ago, when I was in college, I had a pretty amazing group of friends. We used to do a lot of things together, even when just some of us were attending the same college. But we all lived in the same city and our families were in that city too. That means we all got to know everyone’s family members very well too. This part of the story is important because it gave me an insider’ view of something I want to talk about regarding health that I think is extremely important. We will get there in a moment.
My friend J’s father had diabetes. It took him a while to go to the doctor and get diagnosed with that illness, which ended up with him losing a leg. It was very hard for my friend and his family. However, they knew just the basics of how to take care of him, as none of them had ever thought it could get worse. And oh my, it actually got worse!
One evening my friend called to tell me he was rushing to the hospital, as his dad had a high fever and seemed to be disoriented and experiencing extreme pain. I knew it was bad, as I learned with time that his father was very reticent to go to the doctor and didn’t feel comfortable at hospitals. My friends and I gathered at the hospital all night, waiting for news. The news indeed came several hours later: sadly, J and his younger siblings became orphans. His father developed an infection that got out of control and his body responded with sepsis.
This is one of the saddest experiences I have witnessed. I promised myself to learn about this terrible condition in order to prevent it from happening to someone else in my circle. This is why I became very interested in a CDC campaign called “Get Ahead of Sepsis”. The following information is the most relevant and can save lives:
○ First of all, anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis.
Infections put you and your family at risk for a life-threatening condition called sepsis.
○ What does “sepsis” mean? Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without the treatment, sepsis can rapidly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
○ Sepsis happens when an infection you already have—in your skin, lungs, urinary tract or
somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. It is a medical emergency. More than 1.5 million people each year in America get sepsis, and at least 250,000 people die as a result. Delayed recognition and treatment increase patients’ risk of death.
If you are asking why you didn’t have an idea of this life-threatening condition, you must know that more than 60% of adults in America have never heard of sepsis, according to the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis.
Now, how to recognize the symptoms and what to do if you suspect you or someone you love might be at risk of developing sepsis?
Who is at risk? First of all, let’s make clear the following: anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. However, certain people are at higher risk:
● Adults 65 or older
● People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
● People with weakened immune systems
● Children younger than one
Sepsis symptoms can include one or a combination of the following:
● Confusion or disorientation
● Shortness of breath
● High heart rate
● Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
● Extreme pain or discomfort
● Clammy or sweaty skin
What to do? How can you get ahead of sepsis?
- Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections. Some steps
include taking good care of chronic conditions and getting recommended vaccines.
- Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean and covered until
healed. Know the symptoms of sepsis.
What to do if you recognize any (or several of) these symptoms? ACT FAST. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse.
Let me repeat this: Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one suspect sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, visit www.cdc.gov/sepsis.
For more information about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.
CDC’s official account on social media are:
Now you can see why I wanted to share that sad story: it was an emergency that took too long to be addressed as one, simply because no one surrounding the sick person knew about the possibility of an infection like he developed being life-threatening and so quick. Be generous and share this information with every person you know.