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Sepsis Awareness Month

Sepsis Awareness Month

One of the most serious issues facing worldwide medical care is sepsis, a complication of infection in which the body's immune response functions incorrectly and begins to treat its own tissue and organs as foreign. This can cause serious and even fatal damage to important bodily systems.

 Sepsis Awareness Month

The Facts About Sepsis

It's hard to determine exactly how many people are affected by sepsis each year, but since health care-associated infections are the most frequent adverse event to occur during care, the potential for sepsis is always present:

  • 30 million people each year are estimated to be affected by sepsis.
  • 8 million deaths each year are associated with it, including 3 million children and infants.
  • 1 in 3 deaths in a hospital is caused by sepsis.
  • Every 2 minutes, a person in the United States dies of sepsis.
  • 19% of people hospitalized with sepsis are re-hospitalized within 30 days.

Although sepsis is most common in low- and middle-income countries, it can be prevalent anywhere:

  • 270,000 deaths from sepsis occur in the U.S. each year, the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals.
  • Sepsis costs $27 billion a year, the most expensive in-patient cost in American hospitals.
  • $18,400 is the average cost of a hospital stay for sepsis, double the average for any other condition.

Anyone can be affected by sepsis, but some populations are more vulnerable:

  • Older adults.
  • Pregnant women and newborns.
  • Hospitalized patients.
  • Patients with invasive devices: breathing tubes or intravenous catheters.
  • People with compromised immune systems: HIV/AIDS patients, those with cancer, kidney disease, liver cirrhosis, autoimmune diseases, and no spleen.

 Sepsis Bloodstream

Causes and Symptoms of Sepsis

Any infection, whether bacterial, fungal, or viral, could lead to sepsis, but the most common causes are:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Infection in the digestive system: stomach and colon.
  • Infection in the urinary system: kidney and bladder.
  • Bacteremia: infection in the bloodstream.

Sepsis is a medical emergency, and any signs of it should be treated as urgently as possible. Rapid response is vital to survival rates; as many as 80% of sepsis deaths could be prevented with immediate diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing sepsis requires the following:

  • A probable or confirmed infection.
  • A systolic number (upper number in blood pressure reading) that's less than or equal to 100 mm Hg.
  • Respiratory rate higher than 22 breaths per minute.

An easy way to remember the symptoms of Sepsis is the following:
S: shivering, fever, extremely cold
E: extreme pain
P: pale or discolored skin
S: sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty in rousing
I: "I feel like I might die," extreme patient discomfort
S: shortness of breath

Septic Shock

Sepsis can progress to a condition called septic shock, which causes dangerously low blood pressure and changes to cellular metabolism. It's more likely to cause death than sepsis, and requires the following for diagnosis:

  • A probable or confirmed infection.
  • Medication needed to maintain blood pressure greater or equal to 65 mm Hg.
  • High levels of lactic acid in the blood, a sign that cells aren't using oxygen properly.

 Sepsis Hospital Stay

Preventing Sepsis

High standards for hygiene, hospital cleanliness, wound care, and medical care help prevent sepsis.

Vaccinations: Stay up to date with necessary vaccinations. Preventing the virus itself will help prevent complications from it.

Wound Care: Whether in a hospital or at home, all cuts, burns, and other wounds should be meticulously cared for, as any breaks in skin can easily lead to infection. Some tips:

  • Clean hands and wear gloves before touching wounds.
  • Rinse out dirt and debris from wounds.
  • Utilize an antibiotic cream or ointment, or specialized healing products like silver sulfadiazine to care for wounds.
  • Look for signs of infection such as redness, warmth, discharge, and increased pain.

Cleanliness: Even if you're not a medical professional, proper hygiene habits are vital to preventing infections. Practice correct handwashing procedures and always wash hands when sick, close to someone who is ill, handling food, or after using the bathroom.

Medical professionals should always follow established rules and regulations for disinfecting their workplaces. Even those outside the medical profession can follow these tips to safeguard their homes from infection, especially if someone in your house is ill.

Antibiotics: Always take antibiotics as directed and the full course of them. Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem in health care facilities and can lead to incredible difficulty fighting off infections.

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