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A Life-Threatening Infection You Need to Know About

What is sepsis and who is at risk? Get to know this serious condition during Sepsis Awareness Month


If you have an infant, know or are someone who is age 75, or have a chronic illness, you need to know about sepsis. It’s a serious infection your body is unable to fight caused by a more common infection, wound or burn.  Amy Prator, BSN, RN, Director, Quality Services, for Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono, shares information about the infection that affects 1.7 million people and takes more than 200,000 lives every year.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s response to an infection that can result in organ failure and death. It’s often difficult to diagnose, but knowing the risks can help reduce the chance of developing severe sepsis.

What causes sepsis?

While any type of infection – bacterial, viral or fungal – can lead to sepsis, infections that more commonly result in sepsis include pneumonia, urinary tract infections, viral infections, wounds or burns.

What should people know about sepsis?

Sepsis is a medical emergency. If it’s treated early, the outcomes can be very good. If it’s not treated early, there is an increased risk for severe illnesses, even death.

Who is most at risk for sepsis?

While sepsis can impact anyone, people most at risk are those more susceptible to infections, including:

  • Babies younger than 1
  • People 75 and older
  • People with autoimmune disorders or chronic illnesses
  • People diagnosed with cancer

What are the signs and symptoms of sepsis?

While sepsis can be difficult to diagnose, there are symptoms to look out for, including:

  • High or low body temperature
  • Recent infections
  • Mental decline
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chills or sweaty skin
If you suspect you or a loved one is showing symptoms of sepsis, seek emergency care immediately.

Are there treatments or medications for sepsis?

Sepsis can be treated when caught early with antibiotics and fluids.

Any long-term or short-term impacts of sepsis?

When caught early, many patients who develop sepsis survive and recover completely. However, some can have permanent organ damage. That depends on what organs may have already been compromised. For example, if you had kidney impairment, maybe it could result in dialysis. If a patient was severely ill and spent time in critical care, it’s possible they would require rehabilitation from being so sick for an extended period of time.

Can sepsis be avoided?

To avoid sepsis, you should follow the same measures you would take to avoid any infection. Be sure to have your vaccinations, maintain good hygiene, keep any wounds covered and stay on top of any infections.

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