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When treating a patient with a more severe form of systemic infections, such as pneumonia or COVID-19, one thing the doctor would like to avoid at all cost is having the patient to develop sepsis. This is because sepsis is not easy to treat, and even if it doesn’t cost a patient’s life, it would leave the patient with lifelong complications.
In conjunction with the World Sepsis Day 2021, let’s take a look at sepsis and how we can prevent sepsis in the first place.
Imagine if you catch an infection, it’s a good thing that your body goes into a combat mode to fight off the bugs that cause you to feel sick. Your body does this by activating the immune system, which sends an army of white blood cells and inflammatory chemicals to the battleground. Your body enters into a mild inflammation state, but for a good reason: inflammatory chemicals are there to help the white blood cells kill off the incoming infection.
Okay, that’s great! But… What if the infection wins and becomes more severe?
(Infection evil laughs)
Your immune system deploys even more white blood cells and inflammatory chemicals to fight off the nasty infection. The cycle can go on and on if the infection is not resolved, and your body goes into a serious and extensive inflammation that can start to destroy your organs. That’s sepsis— It is your body’s dysregulated response to an infection;it is life-threatening and can lead to multiple organ damage. People with suspected sepsis must be hospitalised immediately and treated accordingly.
(Sepsis is basically like our immune system goes into an overdrive due to the overwhelming load of microorganisms)
According to the Global report on the epidemiology and burden of sepsis published by the World Health Organization in 2020, it was estimated that 49 million individuals had been affected by sepsis in 2017, and sepsis was related to at least 11 million potentially avoidable deaths worldwide. Keyword: avoidable.
As such, it’s more important than ever for all of us to learn how to recognize sepsis and take better actions at preventing it from happening in the first place.
In children, sepsis may present through very fast breathing, convulsions, pale skin, lethargy or difficulty waking up or feeling abnormally cold to the touch. For children under 5 years, it may cause difficulty feeding, repeated vomiting or a lack of urination.
Sepsis is a complication of any systemic infection, thus preventing infections in the first place would be the most effective approach to prevent sepsis. Some steps that you can take to prevent infections is to:
Get recommended vaccines
Take good care of your chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer or any other medical conditions that may make you more prone to getting infections.
Taking care of your personal hygiene is the most cost-effective and effortless thing you can do to prevent infection and sepsis. It goes without saying that we all should:
Practise good hand hygiene
Use only clean waters
Keep any wound clean and covered until it healed
Practise safe food preparation and good nutrition
Severe infections where the microorganisms (bacteria, virus, fungi etc.) have already gotten inside your bloodstream should sound a big alarm, because that’s just one step away from sepsis if it’s not treated immediately.
Learn to spot signs of severe infections and get medical attention as soon as possible:
Image credit to CDC
You may wonder: what does using antibiotics have anything to do with sepsis? It turns out that another global health concern that runs parallel with the topic of sepsis is the concern of antimicrobial resistance.
Simply put: it’s getting harder for doctors to treat infections because the world is running out of effective antibiotics to treat many infections. This is not because we are short of antibiotics supply, but because our antibiotics are losing their effectiveness to treat certain infections. One of the contributing factors is that many people used antibiotics wrongly in the past. You may read more about antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance in our previous article here.
Ways that we can prevent antimicrobial resistance are:
Do not take antibiotics unless when a doctor prescribes them to you
If you are prescribed antibiotics, finish all of the medicine and take it exactly as directed. Never skip doses or stop taking the medicine without talking to your doctor. Stopping the antibiotics on your own may give rise to antibiotic resistance
You should never take antibiotics prescribed to someone else, and you should not take antibiotics that were prescribed to you for a previous illness. When prescribing an antibiotic, doctors have to carefully pick the right antibiotic for a particular infection. Not all antibiotics work on all bacteria
Do not pressure your doctor for antibiotics when they do not think you need them
If we sit idle and do nothing about antimicrobial resistance, one day we would have little or no antibiotics in our arsenal to fight off infections, and there will be more people who are going to be affected or even die from sepsis.
Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ACT FAST. Suspecting sepsis and acting quickly is crucial for early recognition and diagnosis.
Get medical care IMMEDIATELY either in-person, or at minimum, through telemedicine services. Ask your healthcare professional, “Could this infection be leading to sepsis?” and if you should go to the emergency room for a medical assessment.
If you have any questions related to sepsis, you can consult our professional doctors and healthcare professionals on DOC2US. DOC2US is a mobile application that allows you to talk to a doctor or any healthcare professionals via text chat at any time and from anywhere. For better communication, you can even send our online doctor images or voice messages related to your medical inquiry.
Download DOC2US app on Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Huawei App Gallery; or use our web chat at https://web.doc2us.com/
Note: DOC2US is not for medical emergencies. In the event of urgent medical conditions, please call 999.
Disclaimer: As a service to our users and general public, DOC2US provides health education contents. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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