Fall is a time for learning as students of all ages go back to school. So let’s educate our staff, patients and their families about the signs and symptoms of sepsis during Sepsis Awareness Month in September.
First, what is sepsis? It is an illness or complication in which the body has a severe overwhelming response to infection. Time is the enemy for patients with sepsis, as their bodies are mounting a massive, life-threatening response to infection that can destroy tissue and damage organs in a matter of minutes. Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from sepsis — that’s more than deaths from prostate cancer, breast cancer and AIDS combined. With a little education, we can all help prevent sepsis before it starts.
Stay alert for adults or children who have had an infection — any patient with an infection can become septic — and exhibit any of these severe symptoms. Recognition and a fast response are crucial.
Get vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia and other infections that could lead to sepsis to help reduce the risk. Prevent infections by cleaning scrapes and wounds and practicing good hygiene (e.g., hand washing, bathing regularly). Follow all infection control requirements while in the hospital. Be aware that seniors over age 65, premature infants, children younger than 12 months and patients with weakened immune systems and chronic, serious illnesses are the most at risk for sepsis. ICU patients and patients who have recently had surgery or suffered trauma also are at risk.
Finally, if you see these signs following infection or illness, ask yourself, “Could it be sepsis?” and seek immediate medical attention.