Get Ahead of Sepsis – Know the Risks. Spot the Signs. Act Fast.
Infections can put you and your family at risk for a life-threatening condition called sepsis.
What’s The Problem?
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It’s what happens when an infection you already have – in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else – triggers a chain reaction through your body. It’s life-threatening and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
More than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the United States and at least 250,000 Americans die from sepsis each year.
The Get Ahead of Sepsis Educational Effort
It’s important that patients, their families and caregivers, and healthcare professionals think about sepsis as a possibility. Get Ahead of Sepsis reminds us all of the importance of early recognition, timely treatment, and preventing infections.
- Sepsis is a medical emergency. Time matters. If you or your loved one suspects sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
- Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Sepsis more commonly occurs in adults 65 or older, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease, and children younger than one.
- There is no single symptom of sepsis. Symptoms of sepsis can include a combination of the following:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
What Can Patients Do?
Patients and their families should prevent infections, be alert to the symptoms of sepsis, and seek immediate medical care if sepsis is suspected or for an infection that is not improving or is getting worse.
- Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections. Some steps include taking good care of chronic conditions and getting recommended vaccines.
- Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean until healed.
- Know the symptoms of sepsis.
- ACT FAST. Get medical care immediately if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse.
What Can Healthcare Professionals Do?
Get Ahead of Sepsis calls on healthcare professionals to educate patients, prevent infections, suspect and identify sepsis early, and start sepsis treatment fast. If healthcare professionals suspect sepsis:
- Immediately alert clinician in charge if it is not you.
- Know your facility’s existing guidance for diagnosing and managing sepsis.
- Start antibiotics as soon as possible, in addition to other therapies appropriate for that individual patient.
- Check patient progress frequently. Reassess antibiotic therapy 24-48 hours to stop or change therapy as needed. Be sure antibiotic type, dose, and duration are correct.
- Page last reviewed: September 1, 2017
- Page last updated: September 1, 2017
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs