This is a post prepared under a contract funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and written on behalf of the Mom It Forward Influencer Network for use in CDC’s Get Ahead of Sepsis educational effort. Opinions on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CDC.
I have an amazing love of world travel and recently spent two weeks in Kenya serving with an education and medical team. As a world traveler, I have a responsibility to protect myself and know the health risks. There is one health risk that affects you and me called sepsis. Today, I’ll tell you about The Risks of Sepsis and Infections at Home and Abroad.
My team’s job was to bring educational supplies and help with a one-man medical facility run by a pharmacist. The makeshift medical facility that served over 500 tribal people in the area was really a three-room building with very limited medical supplies. A majority of people who visited our makeshift hospital complained of stomach pains, which were typically a result of drinking unclean water. The ailments were treated as best we could with the supplies we’d brought. Many of the people began feeling better within days of us arriving, so we were excited to see sad faces turn to smiles because of what we were doing. Many of the children received a concoction that would clear up stomach viruses and antibiotic that would clear up infections, but there are some infections that require more than an herbal drink and an antibiotic to treat them.
There is a life-threatening condition called sepsis that is caused by infections. It can put my friends in Kenya, you, and me at risk. Anyone can get an infection, not just people in other countries, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Because my husband and I travel the world on medical, education, and construction teams, we are especially aware of the warning signs of certain medical emergencies.
Sepsis is a medical emergency whether you’re in the U.S. or overseas.
I remember when my husband got extremely sick one year when we were in Honduras. That year, we were part of a construction and education team. There was one particular toddler who took a liking to my husband and stuck by his side the whole time. A few days after arriving, my husband caught the toddler’s cold after sharing water from the same water bottle. My husband wound up getting the worst cold of his life as a result. Our guide and I kept a close eye on my husband who was so weak and sick. We kept an eye out for symptoms that could have indicated he had more than a common cold. The same precautions should be taken when someone gets an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse.
If you or your loved one suspect sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
Just like we can use symptoms to identify common illnesses, we can do the same with sepsis. Sepsis symptoms can include one or a combination of the following:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
Anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection can lead to sepsis.
While anyone can have an infection lead to sepsis, certain people are at higher risk which include:
- Adults 65 or older
- People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
- People with weakened immune systems
- Children younger than one
How can you get ahead of sepsis?
- Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections. Some steps include taking good care of chronic conditions and getting recommended vaccines.
- Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean and covered until healed.
- Know the symptoms of sepsis.
- ACT FAST. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse
Whether at home or traveling abroad now you know the signs. Don’t put yourself at risk by not asking the right questions and knowing the warning signs.
Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one suspect sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?”
To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, visit www.cdc.gov/sepsis.
For more information about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.