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Know the Signs of Sepsis

Each year, sepsis kills more than 258,000 Americans, yet most Americans have never even heard of this life-threatening condition that occurs when infection fighting chemicals released into the bloodstream trigger inflammation in other parts of the body.

“Everybody can give you symptoms of heart attack, but very few can give you the symptoms of sepsis or even tell you what sepsis is,” says Kelly Nguyen, MSN, RN, sepsis program coordinator at El Camino Hospital. “Sepsis is just as time-sensitive as a heart a attack or a stroke.”

Since 2009, nurses and physicians at El Camino Hospital have made a coordinated effort to identify patients with sepsis and treat them as early as possible, saving many lives. Note: If sepsis is not caught early, the body may go into septic shock, which causes organ failure and has a high death rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Sepsis Alliance recommend memorizing this acronym — and calling 911 or going to the hospital if you have these symptoms:

-S- Shivering, fever or very cold

-E- Extreme pain or general discomfort (“worst ever”)

-P- Pale or discolored skin

-S- Sleepy, difficult to rouse, confused

-I- “I feel like I might die”

-S- Short of breath


Tips for preventing the spread of infection

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Ensure vaccinations are up to date.
  • Take antibiotics as prescribed.
  • See a doctor if you’re sick and not improving.
  • Keep sores covered.

Learn more about sepsis.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of the El Camino Hospital Health Beat magazine.

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