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What is sepsis?

Sepsis a life-threatening response to an infection. During sepsis the immune system, which usually fights infections, stops fighting the invading agent and begins to fight itself.

Sepsis is an emergency medical condition that if left untreated can lead to septic shock. Sepsis treatment, which is typically antibiotics, should begin within one hour of diagnosis.

Sepsis symptoms may include increased heart rate, fever or chills, confusion, shortness of breath, and extreme pain or discomfort.

The cause of sepsis is not known, and while anyone can develop sepsis, some populations are more vulnerable. Factors that lead to a higher risk for sepsis include age (being older than 65 or younger than one year old), having a weakened immune system, having chronic medical conditions, having had a recent illness or hospitalization, or having had sepsis in the past.

Why is sepsis important in healthcare?

Understanding the early warning signs of sepsis is essential, as it can quickly become more severe. As with many medical conditions, treatment is most effective when sepsis is diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Since sepsis can come as a result of any infection—even a fairly minor skin wound or urinary tract infection—it is critical that healthcare providers communicate the early warning signs of sepsis, the severity of the condition, and the need to seek immediate emergency medical care at the onset of symptoms.