Learn about sepsis

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection. It can start from something very small or very common, like a scraped knee or the flu. It can lead to damage to the body's tissues, organ failure and even death if it isn't treated quickly. In Massachusetts, sepsis is a top reason why people end up in the hospital. Together, we can learn about sepsis and help save lives.

Table of Contents

What is sepsis?

When germs get into a persons body, they can cause an infection. If that infection isnt stopped, it can cause sepsis. It can start from something common, like a scraped knee or the flu. Many people who had a serious case of COVID-19 developed sepsis.

Sepsis is a medical emergency but it can be confused with other illnesses. Symptoms may include:

  • fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
  • extreme tiredness
  • confusion
  • shortness of breath
  • lightheadedness
  • unexplained pain
  • feeling worse than you've ever felt before

Who is at risk for sepsis?

Anyone can get sepsis. People with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease are at higher risk of developing infections that can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is most common in:

  • adults 65 or older
  • children younger than one
  • people with weakened immune systems

If you have certain diseases or conditions, you may be more likely to develop sepsis. Learn more about how sepsis might affect you or a loved one here.

What should I do if I think I have sepsis?

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.

If you are feeling worse or not getting better in the days after surgery, ask the doctor, Could this be sepsis? If you have an infection that is not getting better or is getting worse, check with a doctor.

Can sepsis be prevented?

Take care of chronic conditions and get recommended vaccines to help prevent infections that could lead to sepsis. Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing and keeping cuts clean and covered until healed.

Not all infections can be prevented and as a result, not all cases of sepsis can be prevented. However, knowing the signs of sepsis will help make sure you get treatment quickly and reduce your chances of serious illness. If you or someone you love is showing symptoms of sepsis, get medical help fast.

What is post-sepsis syndrome?

Post-sepsis syndrome affects nearly half of all sepsis survivors, especially those who were admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital. These survivors experience a wide range of long-term physical and mental effects like fatigue, muscle and joint pain, hallucinations or depression. Older people may have problems walking and be unable to participate in regular activities such as bathing and preparing meals.

There is no specific treatment for post-sepsis syndrome. If you or a loved one is experiencing ongoing symptoms after surviving sepsis, talk to a doctor. Learn more about post-sepsis syndrome here.

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