Treat Sepsis in T-I-M-E

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Even the most common infection can lead to Sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Sepsis kills 350,000 adults each year in the United States, but early recognition and intervention can lead to successful treatment.

The Start of Sepsis

Your immune system usually works to fight any germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites) to prevent infection. If an infection does occur, your immune system will try to fight it, although you may need help with medication such as antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics. However, for reasons researchers don’t understand, sometimes the immune system stops fighting the “invaders,” and begins to turn on itself. This is the start of Sepsis.

If you recently had an infection, early detection is key. T-I-M-E matters. 

It’s important to look for a combination of the warning signs of Sepsis. Spotting these symptoms early could prevent the body from entering septic shock,and could save your life.

T – Temperature higher or lower.
Your body’s temperature should stay fairly constant (around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), moving up or down a bit depending on your activity, the environment and time of day. A temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit is considered to be hyperthermia -a fever. When you have an infection, your body’s temperature usually rises as it tries to fight off the bug causing the infection. Interestingly, some people see their body temperature go down (hypothermia) instead of up. This is why any change, high or low, can be a sign of Sepsis.

I – Infection – may have signs and symptoms of an infection.
If you have a local infection, like a urinary tract infection, pneumonia or an infected cut, the signs and symptoms are localized according to the area affected (needing to urinate or burning on urination for a UTI, coughing and chest pain for pneumonia, redness and pus for an infected cut). If the infection has spread or you have a generalized infection, you may develop other signs and symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, pain, etc. Sometimes however, you may have an infection and not know it. Keep this in mind especially if you have recently had surgery or an invasive medical procedure, a break in your skin or you have been exposed to someone who is ill.

M – Mental decline – confused, sleepy, difficult to rouse.
Sepsis can affect your mental status. Some people, especially the elderly, may not show typical signs of infection. Instead, they may show a sudden change in mental status, become confused or experience a worsening of dementia. Sleepiness, often severe, is also a common complaint.

E – Extremely ill – severe pain or discomfort, shortness of breath.
Many Sepsis survivors have said that when they were ill, it was the worst they ever felt. It was the worst sore throat, worst abdominal pain or they felt that they were going to die.

Children who develop Sepsis may have different symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling abnormally cold to the touch
  • Pale, bluish skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Rash that doesn’t fade when pressed
  • Convulsions
  • Lethargic, hard to wake up
  • Children under 5 – not eating, vomiting repeatedly, not urinating in 12 hours or more

If not notice a combination of these symptoms, call 911 or seek medical help immediately. Tell medical providers you are concerned about Sepsis. 

Reducing Your Risk 

Sepsis can be caused by any type of infection: bacterial, viral, fungal, or even parasitic. Sepsis prevention is only possible by preventing infections with good and consistent hygiene and avoiding people with infections. Other infections can be prevented through the use of vaccinations.

  • Vaccinations to prevent infections
  • Proper wound care
  • Treating infections – Taking the right antibiotics for the right reason and the right amount of time
  • Hand washing

Sepsis + Our Culture of Continuous Learning 

St. James Parish Hospital is committed to ensuring patients who present to our facility with possible Sepsis symptoms are quickly and accurately screened. We do this through continuous learning, assessing and educating.

St. James Parish Hospital has a Sepsis Committee made up of leaders and frontline staff. Additionally, our quality department conducts thorough reviews of all Sepsis and possible Sepsis cases to ensure assessments and treatments met current policies and guidelines. Our electronic charting system also has the ability to alert staff when checking in a patient with possible Sepsis symptoms.

Visit for more information on Sepsis prevention and treatment.

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