1. What is sepsis?
Sepsis is an illness in which the body’s defence mechanism overreacts to an infection. This damages several body organs, and the function of these organs fails. This condition can be life-threatening.
Sepsis is one of the most common causes of death in Norwegian hospitals. The illness can strike healthy people of all ages, from newborns to those who are very old. Patients who are weakened after major surgery, or who are living with cancer, diabetes, obesity or cardiovascular disease, are especially vulnerable to serious infections and development of sepsis.
A study in Norwegian hospitals showed that sepsis is rarely recognized in an early phase, increasing the risk that patients become seriously ill (Countrywide Sepsis Supervision 2016/17). But it is often possible to prevent sepsis from developing. The faster the patient receives treatment, especially with antibiotics, the greater the chance of saving organ functions and life.
2. What are the symptoms?
Sepsis often occurs in patients with common infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Sometimes sepsis develops after you have been ill for several days, but often it develops so quickly that you don’t actually know you have been infected. You do not have to have any symptoms other than feeling very ill: "I’ve never felt so sick before."
The symptoms to watch out for when someone has an infection are:
- Breathing faster than usual - Feeling very weak
- Shaking and chills
- Abnormal drowsiness and sluggishness
Rule of thumb:
3. What should you do?
If you think you have symptoms of sepsis, you should contact a health professional immediately. If you have sepsis, you must be admitted to a hospital.
4. How is sepsis treated?
Sepsis is treated in hospital with antibiotics, oxygen and fluids. People with severe sepsis and organ failure need to be treated in an intensive care unit (ICU).
5. What causes sepsis?
Any infection can lead to sepsis, but some infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections or skin infections are more likely to trigger sepsis.
What triggers the severe inflammatory condition depends on the bacteria that cause the infection and the patient’s health and vulnerability.
6. How can you prevent sepsis?
The most important way to prevent sepsis is to avoid exposure to infections. Consult a health professional as soon you see any sign of an infection.
Every minute counts in the treatment of sepsis. The faster you get treatment, the better the outcome.