Understand and Prevent Sepsis

When you have an infection — whether it’s a minor skin infection, urinary tract infection, pneumonia or appendicitis — your body releases certain chemicals into the blood to fight the germs. In some cases, your body can respond abnormally to the infection, causing a serious complication called sepsis.

Sepsis can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death. According to the CDC, there are more than 1 million cases of sepsis each year, and up to half of the people who become septic will die. Read more to know whether you are at risk and what to do to help prevent and recover from sepsis.

Who can get sepsis?

  • While sepsis can affect anyone of any age, you may be at a higher risk if you:
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are younger than age 10 or older than age 65
  • Have an indwelling catheter or IV
  • Had surgery or have been hospitalized recently
  • Have a chronic illness (diabetes, AIDS, cancer, pulmonary disease, kidney disease, heart disease)
  • Have a severe burn or wound

How can I prevent sepsis?

While there is no way to completely prevent the possibility of sepsis, you can reduce your risk by:

  • Getting vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia
  • Cleaning scrapes and wounds thoroughly when they occur and bathing regularly
  • Looking for signs of infection like fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, confusion and disorientation

How is sepsis treated?

Sepsis is a serious complication that generally requires hospitalization. Healthcare providers typically administer antibiotics quickly to treat the infection, do laboratory tests to identify infection and administer IV fluids to keep your vital organs healthy and prevent a drop in blood pressure.

Are there any long-term effects of sepsis?

Many sepsis survivors recover completely. However, some people may experience organ damage or tissue loss. You can get well with these tips:

  • Set small, achievable goals, such as walking up the stairs
  • Rest and rebuild your strength
  • Record your thoughts in a journal
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise if you feel up to it

Sepsis Signs and Symptoms

No one single sign tells you that you have sepsis. Symptoms can include other common infection complications, such as diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat. Talk with your doctor immediately if you know or think you have an infection and are experiencing these symptoms:

Shivering, fever, feeling very cold
Extreme pain or feeling worse than ever
Pale or discolored skin
Sleepiness, difficulty waking up, confusion
I feel like I might die
Shortness of breath 


Recovering from Sepsis

Learn about sepsis to understand what happened to you. Be sure to make a list of questions to discuss with your doctor during your follow-up appointment. Read more about recovering from sepsis


Did you know?

According to the Indiana Hospital Association Inpatient Discharge Study, sepsis is the most frequent inpatient discharge, aside from childbirth.

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