What is sepsis?


Know the Risks. Spot the Signs. Act Fast.

More than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the U.S. At least 250,000 Americans die from sepsis each year. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection you already have—in your skin, lungs, urinary tract or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Almost any infection can lead to sepsis but common ones include staph, strep, and E. coli. Sepsis is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Anyone can get an infection, but some people are at higher risk:

  • Adults 65 and older
  • Children younger than one
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer and kidney disease

A person with sepsis might have one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

  • High heart rate
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
  • Shortness of breath
  • Clammy or sweaty skin

If you are feeling worse or not getting better in the days after surgery, ask your health care provider if you might have sepsis. Also, if you have an infection that is not getting better or is getting worse, ask your provider if it could lead to sepsis.

How to get ahead of sepsis

1. Ask your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections. Take good care of chronic conditions and get recommended vaccines.

2. Practice good hygiene, such as regular handwashing. Keep cuts clean and covered until healed.

3. Know the symptoms of sepsis.

4. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY if you suspect sepsis, or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse.

Sepsis is a medical emergency. Without timely treatment, it can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Time matters. If you or your loved one suspects sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, “Could this infection lead to sepsis?”

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; cdc.gov

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