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Avoiding Sepsis in Seniors

Often when a senior comes down with an infection, their immune system will respond to protect them. Infections could include anything from pneumonia, influenza or a UTI to kidney, abdominal, or bloodstream infections. Sepsis occurs when the chemicals released into the bloodstream via the immune system overreact and end up causing inflammation throughout the entire body instead.

If you or a loved one has recently been in the hospital for a procedure, use a catheter or other invasive apparatus, there are three stages of sepsis to be aware of so you can seek medical attention and receive treatment sooner. Severe cases of sepsis can lead to septic shock, which is a medical emergency.

Stage 1: Sepsis includes 2 or more of the following symptoms.

  • Infection
  • High fever above 101ºF or below 96.8ºF
  • Heart rate higher than 90 bpm
  • Rapid breathing higher than 20 breaths per minute

Stage 2: Severe Sepsis occurs when there is organ failure and one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased urination
  • Changes in mental state
  • Low platelet count
  • Patches of discolored skin
  • Abnormal heart speed and rate
  • Chills due to fall in body temperature
  • Unconsciousness
  • Extreme weakness

Stage 3: Septic Shock happens when the symptoms of severe sepsis go untreated. In this stage, the blood pressure will dramatically drop, and the results can be fatal.

You can prevent sepsis by staying up to date on your vaccinations for the flu, pneumonia and other infections, practice good hygiene, and get immediate care if signs of an infection develop. Always treat urinary tract infections promptly and clean all skin wounds promptly.

While anyone can get sepsis, seniors are at a greater risk since their immune system weakens as they age. Sepsis can quickly progress to septic shock if not treated. If two or more of the symptoms above raise red flags, seek immediate medical attention.