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Sepsis Awareness: Protecting Your Family's Health


Alice Kristek, Aspirus Clinical Outcomes Nurse

Every year, sepsis silently strikes down at least 1.7 million adults in the United States, a staggering number that continues to rise. As the population ages, antibiotic resistance grows, and more individuals manage chronic diseases, the threat of sepsis looms larger than ever. In recognition of this serious health issue, September is designated as Sepsis Awareness Month, dedicated to educating the public about the signs of sepsis and preventing the tragic consequences it can bring.


Here's what to know and how to protect yourself and your family from sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a life-threatening medical condition that results from the body's extreme response to an infection. It occurs when the immune system goes into overdrive to combat the infection, inadvertently causing harm to the body's organs.


Alice Kristek, Aspirus Clinical Outcomes Nurse, underscores the gravity of sepsis, stating, "without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to organ damage, multiple organ failure and, in some cases, death."


Who is at Risk?

While sepsis can affect anyone with an infection, certain individuals are more vulnerable. Those with chronic conditions like diabetes, lung disease, cancer, kidney disease, or AIDS are at a higher risk. Additionally, adults aged 65 or older, people with compromised immune systems, and infants under the age of one face an increased likelihood of developing sepsis.


Recognizing the Signs

Sepsis can be challenging to diagnose in its early stages because its symptoms mimic those of various other illnesses. It's crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling very cold
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • High heart rate or low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion or disorientation


Treatment and Care

Once diagnosed with sepsis, patients are typically admitted to a hospital's intensive care unit. Treatment involves administering antibiotics and fluids. In severe cases, some patients may require a breathing tube, kidney dialysis, or surgery to remove tissue damaged by the infection.


Prevention is Key

Being vigilant and proactive is essential when it comes to sepsis. Here are some crucial steps to take:

  • Prevent Infections: Consult your doctor or nurse, especially if you have a chronic condition that elevates your risk of sepsis, about ways to reduce your infection risk. Stay up to date with all recommended vaccines.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Frequent handwashing and proper wound care are simple yet effective ways to prevent infections. Keep cuts clean and covered until fully healed.
  • Don't Wait: Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you have an infection that doesn't improve or if you suspect sepsis, do not hesitate – contact your doctor or go to the hospital immediately.


Get Informed

Sepsis is a serious and often underestimated threat to public health. Knowledge is power, and being informed can save lives. During Sepsis Awareness Month and beyond, let's come together to combat this silent killer and protect our loved ones from its devastating effects.


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