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Health & Fitness | Sepsis WARNING SIGNS


The earliest symptoms of sepsis usually develop very quickly and include an alarmingly high or low body temperature—above 38.3°C or below 36°C—as well as an elevated heart rate (above 90 beats per minute) and respiratory rate (above 20 breaths per minute). A case of sepsis will be labeled severe if one or more of the following symptoms are also present, indicating potential organ failure: • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea • Abdominal pain • Difficulty breathing • Abrupt change in mental status, including confusion or disorientation


The very young or the very old are at risk of sepsis


• Slurred speech • Cold, clammy and pale skin • Muscle pain • Abnormal heart pumping function • A sharp decrease in urine production • Loss of consciousness


Most cases of sepsis occur amongst patients already in hospital, particularly those at high risk of infection in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). However, it is imperative that if you notice any of these symptoms following surgery, an infection or a hospital stay, you seek medical care immediately.


Septic Shock If sepsis is left untreated for too


long, it can lead to septic shock, a life-threatening condition that causes blood pressure to drop to a dangerously low level. The toxins produced by the bacteria that caused the initial infection attack the walls of the small blood vessels, causing fluid to leak from the blood into surrounding tissues. This can also lead to a decrease in the heart’s ability to pump blood to the vital organs, drastically lowering blood pressure. Without a healthy supply of oxygen rich blood, organ failure is inevitable. Unlike ordinary sepsis, which can


Dr. Chris advises The earliest symptoms


of sepsis develop very quickly and include alarmingly high or low body temperature, above 38.3°C or below 36°C.


be treated through administering intravenous fluids, the dangerously low blood pressure that results from septic shock will not respond to this kind of treatment. A number of other measures will be taken in the ICU to treat septic shock. These include: h Oxygen therapy: the patient will be given oxygen via a mask or tube to aid breathing h Inotropic medicines: heart stimulating medicines are used to help circulate the blood needed by the patient’s organs and tissues h Vasopressors: medicines that cause blood vessels to narrow are used to increase blood pressure and circulation h Antibiotics: as with ordinary sepsis, a person with septic shock will be given antibiotics to fight the original infection In the most severe cases of sepsis or septic shock, surgery may be needed to remove the source of the infection.


Although the risk of sepsis remains


More Information: For more information on the causes, symptoms and treatments of sepsis, see: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Blood-poisoning/Pages/Intro- duction.aspx


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low for most people, it is important to be aware of the signs for yourself and your family. With this potentially lethal condition, a quick response can make all the difference. 


DEAR DOCTOR WITH DR CHRIS STEELE 119


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