What is sepsis?
Sepsis is a severe condition that occurs as a result of an overwhelmed immune system due to an infection. Widespread inflammation is activated by immunity chemicals that are released into the blood to fight the infection. This causes leaky vessels and blood clots. The flow of the blood is then disrupted, and this deprives the organs of the oxygen and nutrients they need to function which results in damage.
There can be organ failure in patients with severe sepsis. If the condition worsens, blood pressure is reduced, the heart becomes weak, and septic shock occurs. When the body experiences septic shock, many organs can quickly fail and this leads to death.
It is easy to confuse symptoms of sepsis with those of other medical conditions, which makes it difficult to diagnose sepsis in its initial stages. The symptoms that are common include:
- High fever above 101F
- Low body temperature below 96.8F
- Rapid heartbeat with a heart rate above 90 beats per minute
- Rapid breathing with a respiratory rate above 20 breaths per minute
- Nausea and vomiting
- Disorientation and confusion
How to prevent sepsis
The important thing to remember when you want to prevent sepsis is to avoid any infections from occurring. Quick and effective treatment should be administered if an infection does occur.
Regular childhood vaccines prevent many illnesses from being contracted. It is reported that the number of meningitis cases were significantly lowered in regions where the Hib vaccine was routinely offered. If for some reason your child is unable to be vaccinated due to an underlying complication, the people who are close to the child should be vaccinated to provide herd immunity.
Washing your hands properly also reduces the chances of getting an infection. The number of pathogens going into your body are minimized by washing hands thoroughly and appropriately with soap or soapy products.
Proper caring of wounds reduces infections, so it is important to eliminate any bacteria at the opening of the wound. Soap and water should be used to clean it thoroughly. Take any infection seriously by treating it immediately.
In the United States, over 750,000 people are found to suffer from sepsis annually. In the last year, the diagnoses have risen by 90 percent. In addition, 25 citizens in the United States lose their lives every hour from severe sepsis which makes it more serious than prostate, breast, pancreatic and colon cancer combined.
Some individuals have a higher chance of getting sepsis than others, although anybody can get it.
The immune system starts to weaken as people age, making it difficult to fight infections before they affect the whole body.
A person’s capacity to communicate sicknesses may be impaired by dementia. The majority of older people have existing medical conditions like cancer and diabetes, leading to poor immune systems.
The immune systems of small children are underdeveloped which makes it hard for them to battle infections. Infants born with meconium staining or those who are born in under 37 weeks have higher chances of developing sepsis. The rate of fatality is 50% in infants with sepsis. Hence in case of infants, proper vaccination at regular intervals is the basis prevention. Due to the regular vaccination of polio and the other vaccines, the immune system of the children remains maintained or keeps on increasing.
Over intake of antibiotics
The medical field is making drastic improvements and conducting a significant number of studies as new antibiotic drugs are being introduced in the markets. Sepsis too can be cured with antibiotics. However, too much intake of these drugs can also prove to be harmful especially for infants and older people. Regular use of antibiotics in case of other normal diseases is harmful too, because it hinders the growth of the immune system in a person. This makes the body more exposed to the dangers of infections.
People who just had surgery
Patients who have undergone fragile surgeries like abdominal surgery, heart surgery or organ transplants have higher chances of developing sepsis. Immunosuppressant medicines, which are normally given to these people, weaken their immune system. The drugs prevent the organs that have been transplanted or the organ parts that are man-made from being rejected by the body.
Existence of other illnesses
A lot of illnesses make patients susceptible to infections. People with chronic illnesses possess very weak immune systems that are unable to battle infections. The immune system is also affected by chemotherapy offered during cancer treatment. People with diabetes have minimal peripheral circulation, making the healing of wounds very difficult.
Individuals suffering from gastro-urinary and gastrointestinal complications also have higher chances of getting an infection. People who are obese and bedridden develop sores that lead to infections. Burns and major trauma destroy the skin, making it easy for a patient to get an infection. On the other hand, a healthy individual can also develop sepsis.
Infections will mostly develop in the following wounds:
- Puncture burns
- Impaled objects
- Wounds that are dirty
- Crush injuries
Vast areas of the skin are affected by these wounds and the affected skin can allow germs to get inside the body. Any severe would should be recognized early and treated thoroughly to avoid complications.
Cleanliness and hygiene awareness
People need to be educated in maintaining their personal hygiene. They must be taught that when hygiene is not maintained, it becomes easy for bacteria and parasites to attack the body from outside and inside as well. Hence, the first step to avoid sepsis is to be clean and sanitized at home, school, the work place, etc. The cleanliness of hospitals also plays an important role in the health of sepsis patients.
Proper and timely identification of the stages of sepsis
Sepsis is categorized into three stages in increasing order of their severity. The first stage is not so serious, however, many people ignore it due to normal flu symptoms. For the other two more serious stages, it is important to identify the disease as soon as possible and start immediate treatments. Many tests are available to identify the existence of sepsis.
A person who is healthy has a 95 percent chance of surviving sepsis. The rate of mortality, however, quickly increases for individuals with severe sepsis or pre-existing conditions. The mortality rate rises as the disease goes untreated.
- Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly can help tremendously in avoiding infections that can cause sepsis.
- The elderly and young children are at a higher risk of getting sepsis due to their weaker immune systems.
- Sepsis is primarily caused by infections.