Most of us have heard about heart attacks and strokes being frequent causes for hospitalizations and deaths, but there is another condition that we should make ourselves aware of…SEPSIS!
Sepsis is the body’s overactive response to an infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure or even death. For reasons that are not clear to researchers, sometimes when an individual gets an infection, rather than the body’s immune system working to fight the “germs” (bacteria, virus, fungus or parasite) that is causing the person to be sick, the immune system ignores the germs and starts fighting itself — this is where sepsis starts!
While sepsis can occur with anyone who has an infection, people who are very young, very old, have a chronic health condition, or who have a weakened or impaired immune system are most at risk.
Since researchers cannot determine the reason that sepsis occurs, there is no way that it can completely be eliminated as a risk for an individual with an infection. It is absolutely vital that you know the signs and symptoms of an infection that has progressed to this state. These include: shivering, extreme pain, pale skin, sleepiness, “I feel like I might die,” and shortness of breath.
If you notice a combination of any of these symptoms for yourself or someone else during an illness, seek medical attention immediately! Time is a factor in the treatment of sepsis.
So, now that you know about this potentially deadly condition, how can you prevent it?
The very first thing that you can do is take measures to try to prevent catching an infection. These measures include, but are not limited to: hand washing, staying away from other people who are sick, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For those individuals who have a chronic health condition, this would include following the doctor or nurse practitioner’s instructions on how to treat chronic health conditions.
Secondly, make sure that you get the vaccinations that can help prevent you from getting sick. These include vaccines for influenza (the flu), chicken pox, and pneumonia.
A third way that you can take care of yourself is to properly care for any open wounds.
The proper way to care for a wound includes: washing your hands before touching the wound, cleaning the area with clean water, applying an antibiotic cream or ointment, and covering the wound to keep it from getting dirty. Until the wound is healed, you should examine the wound daily looking for signs and symptoms of an infection. These signs and symptoms include: redness around the wound, increased warmth to the area of the wound, drainage from the wound, or increased pain in that area.
The final preventative measure is to take your doctor’s or nurse practitioner’s advice about your need for an antibiotic.
Antibiotics only treat infections that are caused by bacteria. When you take an antibiotic for an infection caused by a virus, fungus or parasite, your body begins to build up an immunity to the antibiotic and, at a later time, it is very possible that antibiotics will not work when needed for a bacterial infection. It is very important to listen to your provider’s instructions for treating your illness and to take antibiotics, when prescribed, exactly as instructed.