How to prevent sepsis infection

Did you know that more than 1.5 million people get sepsis each year in the United States? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this dangerous condition causes at least 250,000 deaths a year. However, many of these deaths could have been prevented with simple interventions. Long-term healthcare professionals are the on the front line of defense for helping to prevent resident deaths from sepsis infection. Long-term care nurses and aides work closely with residents on a daily basis and often are the first to notice changes in a resident’s overall state of health. They are vital in the fight against sepsis infection. The following is a brief overview of sepsis and what long-term professionals can do to help combat it.

What is sepsis?
According to the CDC, sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is life-threatening, and without prompt treatment, often rapidly leads to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Anyone can get an infection and almost any infection can lead to sepsis. Some people are at a higher risk of infection and sepsis, including people 65 and older, people with weak immune systems and people with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer. Almost any type of infection can trigger sepsis. Four types of infections that are often linked with sepsis are lung, urinary tract, skin and gastrointestinal. The most frequently identified pathogens that cause infections that can develop into sepsis include Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Escherichia coli (E. coli) and some types of Streptococcus, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of sepsis
Vigilance and fast action are imperative in the fight to prevent sepsis deaths. If a resident has an infection that is getting worse or returns from a surgical procedure with an infection, it is important to closely monitor them for signs of possible sepsis infection. Symptoms to look for:

  • Confusion or disorientation 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • High heart rate 
  • Fever or feeling very cold
  • Shivering
  • Extreme pain or discomfort 
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
If two or more symptoms are observed, sepsis may be culprit and the resident’s medical care provider needs to be contacted as soon as possible. People with sepsis are usually treated in the hospital. Doctors try to treat the infection, keep the vital organs working and prevent a drop in blood pressure. Doctors treat sepsis with therapy, such as appropriate use of antibiotics, as soon as possible.
In addition to knowing the signs of sepsis and acting quickly, it is important to practice good prevention practices such as ensuring residents’ cuts and scrapes are kept clean and covered until they are healed, making sure residents receive recommended vaccinations and following infection control practices. Together, these practices and being proactive can help protect long-term care residents from the dangers of sepsis.

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