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Local doctor says people should be aware of warning signs of sepsis

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 1:01 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Baylor Scott & White said sepsis was one of the leading causes of death in hospitals, and people should still be aware of the warning signs.

Dr. Marc Elieson, a hospitalist at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest, said sepsis is actually very common.

Sepsis is the general name for the response your body has to a life threatening illness. Any kind of infection can lead to sepsis, according to Dr. Elieson.

“It’s an infection that goes unchecked, so it could be as simple as a bladder infection,” Dr. Elieson said. “It can be a staph infection, so you get a cut on your finger and then the finger isn’t cleaned properly, and you don’t get on antibiotics and then it can evolve into something more serious.”

He said the key warning signs are simple, and can be remembered with the mnemonic “TIME” -- temperature, signs of infection (like rapid breathing), mental deterioration, and being extremely ill.

If sepsis goes untreated, it can lead to death. For every hour sepsis goes untreated, Dr. Elieson said your risk of mortality goes up by eight percent. On average, around 1.7 million people get sepsis every year, and around 250,000 people die.

Dr. Elieson said even if people survive, there can be other serious health concerns.

“You can have kidney failure, you can have respiratory failure, liver failure, your vital organs can start to shut down because they’re not getting adequate blood flow, because of the infection,” Dr. Elieson said.  “Long term, some of those same organs can not return to normal. But if a patient survived sepsis, usually with good medical care, we can get those patients back to baseline”

Dr. Elieson says since sepsis can be so serious, it’s important to seek medical attention if you notice any of the warning signs.

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, and you can find more information on sepsis, risk factors and prevention here.

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