Personal Injury And Medical Malpractice Attorneys

September is Sepsis Awareness Month: What have we learned?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2023 | Infection |

Sepsis is a serious illness that impacts millions of patients worldwide. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that sepsis affects more than a million Americans every year and is fatal for up to half of them. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recognizes sepsis as a global health priority.

In an effort to help prioritize efforts to combat this growing problem, officials have dubbed September as National Sepsis Awareness Month. The move helps draw attention to the illness and can increase funding towards research efforts.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a serious illness that impacts the body’s ability to fight an infection and the bacterial infection becomes systemic. Medical professionals define this syndrome as a life-threatening organ dysfunction that results form a dysregulated response to an infection. When faced with an infection, our bodies release cytokines to help fight off the infection. Sometimes these chemicals can cause inflammation. When excessive, this inflammation can damage organs and, in serious cases, lead to death.

Common causes include bacterial infections. Viral infections, such as COVID-19 or the flu, or even fungal infections can trigger sepsis, but often in connection with a bacteria. Symptoms generally include a fever and rash as well as confusion and disorientation.

If left to progress, the blood pressure can drop, the heart can weaken, and the sepsis response can lead to septic shock. During septic shock the patient’s lungs, kidneys, liver, or other organ systems can fail.

Who is at risk of sepsis?

High risk individuals include:

  • Infants
  • Children
  • Elderly
  • Those with chronic illness

Those who survive sepsis have an increased risk of complications later in life.

How can we avoid sepsis?

At this time there are few medications to help with the treatment of sepsis. As such, the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends the best way to deal with sepsis is to avoid it in the first place. Tips to achieve this goal include steps to reduce the risk of infection such as good hand washing etiquette. Patients admitted to a hospital are likely (and wisely) concerned about infection. We can advocate for our safety by making sure every medical professional who enters the room thoroughly washes their hands before they provide care.

It is also important to seek medical care when we notice symptoms of sepsis. If the medical team is not taking these concerns seriously, push back. Do not be afraid to ask two or three times to make sure needs are met. A blood test can help aid the medical team in determining if sepsis is present. A failure to intervene can result in a downward spiral, as noted above, ultimately leading to septic shock.

It can also help to keep a record of questions, answers, and approximate times/dates during the stay.