Sepsis - Symptoms

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What are the signs or symptoms of sepsis (blood poisoning)?

The adult patient should have a proven or suspected source of an infection (usually bacterial) and have at least two of the following problems: an elevated heart rate (tachycardia), either a high (fever) or low temperature (hypothermia), rapid breathing (>20 breaths per minute or a reduced PaCO2 level), or a white blood cell count that is either high, low, or composed of >10% band cells. In most cases, it is fairly easy to ascertain heart rate (count pulse per minute), fever or hypothermia with a thermometer, and to count breaths per minute even at home. It may be more difficult to prove a source of infection, but if the person has symptoms of infection such as productive cough, or dysuria, or fevers, or a wound with pus, it is fairly easy to suspect that a person with an infection may have sepsis. However, determination of the white blood cell count and PaCO2 is usually done by a lab. In most cases, the definitive diagnosis of sepsis is made by a physician in conjunction with laboratory tests.

Elderly patients have similar symptoms to those stated for adults, but the first apparent symptoms are often confusion along with chills, weakness, possibly faster breathing, and a dusky skin appearance. Pediatric patients (infants, toddlers, and children) also may develop similar symptoms to those in adults, but the most common symptoms are fever and reduced urine output. Children may show signs of lethargy and decreased age-appropriate mental status. Neonatal sepsis (sepsis neonatorum) is suspected in neonates up to 28 days old if the rectal temperature is 100.4F or higher. Other signs and symptoms for neonatal sepsis include fever in the mother at time of delivery, cloudy or smelly amniotic fluid, abnormal vital signs, seizures, and projectile vomiting.

Some authors consider red lines or red streaks on the skin to be signs of sepsis. However, these streaks are due to local inflammatory changes in either local blood vessels or lymphatic vessels (lymphangitis). The red streaks or lines are worrisome as they usually indicate a spreading infection that can result in sepsis.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Kona, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 20

My barefoot broke through a rotting log and large splinters went through my toe webs and out near my ankle. I had surgery but then the infections started, looked like a melting leprosy, skin bubbled and oozed and started fusing my toes together. My body would not respond to two types of antibiotics, this went on for a month and then I realized nothing medical science could do for my condition. On the second blood test, sepsis was diagnosed, I believe it was called micro-bacterium, talk of being put in quarantine at the hospital and possible foot amputation. Oh no, from here on in I elevated my foot in the TV room and I sat in my chair for months. Some of my symptoms were, foot and hands felt like raw throbbing meat with no skin, then my feet started feeling like tinfoil inside with cockroaches running around, horrific feeling lasted for months, body was cold, exhausted and I slept a great deal. Swelling on my foot started reducing by the 3rd month and I started limping around and feeling much better. It is now the 6th month since my foot injury and this week"s blood test reveals that I am now pre-diabetic, more than likely because of the infection and lack of exercise. No one in my family has diabetes and I"m not a sugar eater. Hopefully my foot will heal in time if not, at least I"m feeling much better.

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Comment from: Survivor2013, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 25

I survived sepsis on December 2013. It all started with a urinary tract infection (UTI). I had fever, chills, shortness of breath, no energy and rashes on my legs. I was in ICU for a week. I had kidney failure and went on dialysis twice. My doctors saved my life.

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