“Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection.  It is a life-threatening medical emergency.”  (CDC). 

  • ANYONE can get “sepsis.”
  • It can start ANYWHERE (skin, urine, lungs, bowels) 

Left untreated, sepsis can quickly go from a mild, easily managed infection, to tissue damage, organ failure and possibly death. 

Those most at risk:

  1. those who are 65 years of age and older,
  2. those with chronic health conditions (diabetes, lung diseases and kidney diseases). 
  3. Those with a weakened immune system (cancer patients and those who have a compromised immune system due to other conditions)
  4. those under the age of one. 

Symptoms of sepsis are much like those experienced with infection, any infection.  Many of these same symptoms are associated with a wide range of numerous other conditions, as well.  This can make the diagnosis of sepsis very difficult, leading to a late or missed diagnosis.   

Symptoms MAY include:   

  • Fevers/chills          
  • increased heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • confusion/disorientation
  • shortness of breath                       
  • clammy/sweaty skin
  • decreased urination                      
  • possibly pain

There are some things that you can do to prevent sepsis.  

  1. Speak with your health care provider(s). Discuss concerns that you might have about your health conditions and what you and your provider can do to take the best care of you and these conditions.  Be PROACTIVE.
  2. Practice good hygiene   Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.   Bathe regularly.  Monitor skin regularly for dryness, cracks, irritation, sores
  3. Take all prescribed medications, as directed, especially and including ANTIBIOTICS!!!!!
  4. Avoid contact with those who are ill, especially if you know that you are a person at increased risk. 

Lastly, if you suspect that you may have an infection or sepsis, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you speak with your health care provider, RIGHT AWAY!


Sepsis is typically treated with IV fluid and antibiotics as soon as it is suspected.  Sometimes people need other treatments such as use of oxygen to help maintain adequate oxygenation to their organs, a mechanical ventilator to assist with oxygenation and breathing, dialysis to assist the kidneys in removal of waste products, and/or medications to support blood pressure and blood flow to the organs. 

What is being done:

Healthcare organizations and health care providers have been working together for many years and will continue to do so, so that Sepsis will be identified earlier to improve patient outcomes across the spectrum.  Protocols are constantly changing to aid healthcare personnel in faster, more accurate and reliable identification of sepsis as well as initiation of treatment for sepsis as soon as it is suspected.

 You can be a vital asset in helping to identify a problem before it becomes sepsis. 

For more information: 




Sara A. Van Effen, FNP-BC