Get Ahead of Sepsis – Know the Risks. Spot the Signs. Act Fast.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month
Get ahead of sepsis. Know the signs. Spot the facts. 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. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have – in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else – triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. It is life-threatening, and without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Each year, at least 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis, and nearly 270,000 Americans die as a result.

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 healthcare professional, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
  • Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Certain people are at higher risk, including adults 65 or older; people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease; people with weakened immune systems; sepsis survivors; and children younger than one.
  • A patient with sepsis might have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:
    • High heart rate or low blood pressure
    • Fever, shivering, or feeling very cold
    • Confusion or disorientation
    • Shortness of breath
    • Extreme pain or discomfort
    • Clammy or sweaty skin

What Can Patients Do?

Patients and their families should prevent infections, be alert to the signs and symptoms of sepsis, and seek immediate medical care if sepsis is suspected or for an infection that is not getting better or is getting worse.  As a patient, specific steps can be taken to reduce your risk of sepsis, such as:

  1. Talk to your healthcare professional about steps you can take to prevent infections that can lead to sepsis.  Some steps include taking good care of chronic conditions and getting recommended vaccines.
  2. Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean and covered until healed.
  3. Know the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
  4. Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ACT FAST. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY either in-person, or at minimum, through telehealth services. Ask your healthcare professional, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?” and if you should go to the emergency room for medical assessment.
Doctor talking with patient discussing if infection could be sepsis

What Can Healthcare Professionals Do?

Get Ahead of Sepsis encourages healthcare professionals to know sepsis signs and symptoms, identify and treat patients early, act fast if they suspect sepsis, know their facility’s existing guidance for diagnosing and managing sepsis, prevent infections, and educate patients and their families. If healthcare professionals suspect sepsis, they should:

  • Know their facility’s existing guidance for diagnosing and managing sepsis.
  • Immediately alert the clinician in charge if it is not them.
  • Start antibiotics as soon as possible in addition to other therapies appropriate for the patient. Once the specific cause of sepsis is known, such as a positive test for COVID-19, therapy can be targeted, and empiric broad-spectrum antibiotics might not be needed.
  • Check patient progress frequently. Always remember to prescribe the right antibiotic, at the right dose, for the right duration, and at the right time. Reassess antibiotic therapy to stop or tailor treatment based on the patient’s or resident’s clinical condition and diagnostic test results as appropriate.

Sepsis is a medical emergency. Healthcare professionals should protect their patients by acting fast. Their fast recognition and treatment can increase their patients’ chances of survival.