Sepsis is the body's over reaction to an infection. The infection can be as simple as a scraped knee or a tiny cut or as major as influenza (the flu) or pneumonia.
It can come from a tatoo, dog bite, ear piercing, etc. ANY infection can progress to sepsis. Take all infections seriously. If you start feeling like you are getting the worst case of the flu on top of these infections, seek medical care promptly.
How Do You Get Sepsis?
You might hear some people calling sepsis “blood poisoning” or a “blood infection,” but this is not an accurate description. Sepsis is not an infection but it is your body’s reaction to one.
When you get an infection, your immune system starts to fight it by releasing chemicals. Unfortunately, and researchers don’t yet know why, as the immune system tries to fight the infection, it sometimes goes into overdrive. The chemicals meant to protect you end up triggering inflammation (swelling) throughout your body.
It is possible to get sepsis and not know you have an infection or the doctors might not be able to figure out what the infection was.
All types of infections can cause sepsis:
A bacterial infection is caused by bacteria, such as E. coli, or group A streptococcus. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, although some bacteria are becoming much more difficult to treat as they become antibiotic resistant. MRSA is a good example. People who die from MRSA, die from sepsis. ( Discussed later)
A viral infection is caused by a virus. Examples of viral infections are the flu (influenza), measles, and certain types of pneumonia. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics and many viruses have to just run their course. There are antiviral medications that are used for for some viral illnesses, however. Do not make the mistake, like a friend of mine, who decided to avoid the ER believing he would feel better in a couple of days. If you have 2 or more of the signs of sepsis; get medical help and, SAY SEPSIS! His death was preventable by him and his family. Look for the signs when your friends and loved ones get sick or have an infections!
Fungal infections are infections like athlete's foot or thrush. While these can seem just annoying for most people, they can become severe and cause sepsis. In 2012, there were several people in the United States who developed fungal meningitis from contaminated steroid injections into the spine and some went on to develop sepsis.
Parasitic infections are not as common in North America, but they do occur. These infections can trigger sepsis also.
So how do you prevent sepsis?
Not every case of sepsis is preventable. This is why early recognition and prompt and appropriate treatment are vital. However, if you avoid getting an infection or if infections are treated properly and promptly your chances of survival are good!
Wash your hands.
Washing your hands regularly and properly is the number one way to prevent the spread of infections. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) has information on their site about the importance of when and how to wash your hands.
Get recommended vaccinations.
Vaccinations reduce the risk of contracting and spreading viruses that cause viral infections. Both childhood vaccines and those recommended for adults are effective in reducing the risk of illness. Please speak to your healthcare provider to see which vaccinations you should receive and ensure that you are up-to-date.
Not everyone can be vaccinated for a variety of reasons. If there is someone in your family or circle of friends who cannot be vaccinated, his or her chances of becoming ill do drop if everyone around them has been vaccinated. This is called herd immunity.
Avoid spreading your illness.
If you are sick with a contagious illness like the flu, it's important that you stay home. While going in to work may seem like the right thing to do, you may unknowingly spread your illness to someone who cannot fight it.
Seek medical help for infections.
Sadly, it's not unusual to hear stories of people who have had sepsis or who died of sepsis that was triggered by an infection that they did not get treated. Whether it is a UTI, pneumonia, or an infected ingrown toe nail, bacterial infections usually need antibiotics to clear up. Fungal and parasitic infections also need medications.
If you have a viral infection, an anti-viral medication might be prescribed. Otherwise, it is important to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations, including rest if that is required. Overtiring your body by going back to your regular activities too early could cause you to become ill again.
Listen to your body.
Many people who survived sepsis say that they never felt so sick in their life. If something doesn't seem right, get checked. SAY SEPSIS. It could save your life.
As the VW-APP points out: if you have a rising temperature, pulse and respiration plus a suspected infection, seek professionalhelp immediately