Sepsis symptom: fever
Sepsis strikes more than a million Americans every year, and according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, some estimates show almost half die from it. And yet a survey shows that some 45 percent of Americans have never even heard of a sepsis infection, a deadly condition that happens when a bacterial infection elsewhere in the body enters the bloodstream. People with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable, but anyone can develop sepsis from an initial infection such as pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, or even just a cut on the arm or leg. Although sepsis can easily be treated with antibiotics if caught early, sepsis symptoms can be confused with other conditions, so it often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late. That’s why it’s crucial to learn the signs of sepsis, and the first and most important is a high fever. Sepsis occurs when “toxins from the infecting organism get into the bloodstream and produce inflammation,” says noted sepsis expert R. Philip Dellinger, MD, chair and chief of the department of medicine at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey. “Fever is the most specific finding of infection-induced systemic inflammation.” Feeling ill and having a fever is one of the 9 signs a cut or scrape is infected.
Sepsis symptom: a very low temperature
Alternately, toxins from a sepsis infection can cause the opposite effect. “Very rarely, the body responds to an infection by dropping body temperature, although this is less common,” says Craig Coopersmith, MD, a surgeon at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and a leading researcher on sepsis. Studies have shown that a low temp can mean a more serious case of sepsis, and a worse prognosis. The Global Sepsis Alliance says to be concerned if the thermometer readout drops below 96.8.