Sepsis occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection and releases chemicals into the bloodstream leading to organ damage and, in severe cases, death. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about the signs of a blood infection with a search online.
While anyone can develop sepsis, it is most common in older adults, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions like diabetes or lung disease. It’s important to recognize the signs in order to seek medical attention.
Fever and Chills
Fever and chills are common symptoms of a blood infection. A fever is a temporary increase in body temperature, typically above 100.4°F (38°C). Chills are often accompanied by shivering and can be a sign that your body is trying to fight off an infection.
Rapid Heart Rate
A rapid heart rate, also known as tachycardia, can be a sign of a blood infection. Sepsis can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, leading to an increased heart rate. According to the National Institute of Health, a resting heart rate above 100 beats per minute is considered tachycardia.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, can be a symptom of a blood infection. In severe cases of sepsis, fluid can build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, can be a sign of a blood infection. Sepsis can cause blood vessels to dilate, which can lead to a drop in blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, a blood pressure reading of less than 90/60 mm Hg is considered hypotension. If you experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting, it is important to seek medical attention.
Confusion or Disorientation
Confusion or disorientation can be a symptom of a blood infection. Sepsis can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to confusion or delirium. According to the Sepsis Alliance, confusion is often one of the early signs of sepsis, particularly in seniors.
A rash on the skin can be a sign of a blood infection. Sepsis can cause small red dots on the skin, which may look like a rash. These dots may be flat or raised and can be found anywhere on the body. Pale or cold skin are also signs of a blood infection, as sepsis causes the blood vessels to dilate, leading to a reduction in blood flow.
Seek Medical Attention
According to the Sepsis Alliance, sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals, with over 1.7 million cases each year. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Sepsis can progress rapidly and requires prompt treatment to prevent complications. In the hospital, doctors may perform blood tests, imaging tests, and other diagnostic procedures to confirm the presence of an infection and identify the responsible microorganism. Treatment typically involves intravenous antibiotics and other supportive measures such as oxygen therapy or intravenous fluids.
While sepsis can be life-threatening, prompt treatment can improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a blood infection, don’t delay in seeking medical attention.