5 things to know about infections

Learn these key facts and you could help save a life.

The pandemic made us all more aware of how to prevent infections by doing things like washing our hands more carefully and more often.  This summer, think about all the ways you can prevent other kinds of infections from becoming a medical emergency.

Here are five things to know about infections that could save a life:

1. An infection can start from something very small or very common

When germs get into a person’s body, they can cause an infection. You can get an infection after surgery or from a contagious virus. You can also get an infection from something as simple as a cut or scrape that doesn’t get properly cleaned.

2. An infection that doesn’t go away can turn into sepsis

If the infection doesn’t get better and keeps getting worse, it could turn into a condition called sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It is sometimes called ‘septic shock.’

Every two minutes, someone dies from sepsis in the United States.  By noticing the signs of sepsis and getting treatment fast, people can reduce their chances that sepsis will seriously harm their health.

3. It is important to know the signs of sepsis

Sepsis can be difficult to detect because its symptoms are easily confused with other illnesses. Things like fever or shivering, extreme tiredness, confusion, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and unexplained severe pain could be sepsis. Many people describe it as “feeling worse than you've ever felt before.”

You can help the people you love by knowing these signs. Anyone can get sepsis. But be on the lookout for sepsis most with adults over the age of 65, children under the age of one, and people you know with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer and kidney disease.


4. Act in time to get treatment fast

A doctor can treat sepsis, but it needs to be done quickly. The risk of serious harm from sepsis increases with every hour that passes before treatment begins.

If you or someone you love are feeling worse or not getting better in the days after surgery, ask the doctor about sepsis. If an infection or a case of the flu is not getting better or is getting worse, check with a doctor and ask, “Could this be sepsis?”

5. Spread the word about sepsis and save lives

Talk to your friends and family about infections and sepsis. You can share the information on social media or at your church, school, book club, or any place you think people might want to know more about staying healthy. And, of course, if you or a loved one has the signs of sepsis, get help fast.

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