Office for the Aging: Learn the warning signs of sepsis

New York News

(Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay )

NEW YORK (WWTI) — The New York State Office for the Aging is urging caregivers and older New Yorkers to learn the early warning signs of sepsis.

According to NYSOFA, caregivers and elderly individuals, especially those with chronic health conditions or an impaired immune system, should be aware of the symptoms, get immediate treatment and learn how to prevent infections that could lead to sepsis.

Sepsis is a very serious illness for people of all ages. It can be particularly devastating, even deadly, for older adults. The risk is even greater during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Staying healthy during this pandemic is critical, particularly for older adults, who are at greater risk for COVID-19,” NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen said. “Sepsis can come on quickly and can be fatal. Simple precautions, like frequent handwashing and getting recommended vaccinations can prevent the underlying illnesses that often lead to sepsis. If an infection does set in, it must be treated as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Sepsis is a progressive shutdown of the body’s organs and systems caused by systemic inflammation following an infection that enters the blood or soft tissue. Those who don’t die often experience life-altering consequences like missing limbs or organ dysfunction. Studies have shown that early detection combined with appropriate interventions can significantly improve the chances of survival.

Sepsis is a public health crisis. It is a condition that ends up killing more people than cancer and occurs more commonly than a heart attack, according to NYSOFA.

In the U.S., someone dies from sepsis every two minutes, and someone is hospitalized due to sepsis every 20 seconds. Approximately 50,000 people in New York are diagnosed with severe sepsis or septic shock each year.

It is the leading cause of hospital readmissions and the top cost for avoidable hospitalizations in New York. More than 80% of sepsis cases begin outside of the hospital. Home care patients are at particular risk for sepsis, as the condition can often go unnoticed until it becomes life-threatening.

New York became the first state in the nation to enact sepsis regulations. New York is also the first state to publish hospital-specific sepsis data in public reports.

According to NYSOFA, The key to preventing sepsis is preventing infection from occurring in the first place. Proper and frequent handwashing decreases the risk of getting an infection. Many illnesses can be prevented through regular vaccinations, such as flu or pneumonia shots. If an infection does set in, it must be taken seriously and treated immediately.

Death from sepsis increases 8% every hour that treatment is delayed. As many as 80% of sepsis deaths may be prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Signs of sepsis among adults include:

  • Change in body temperature, either a fever above 101.3 degrees F or a lower than normal temperature below 95 degrees F
  • Rapid heart rate above 90 beats per minute
  • Rapid breathing above 20 breaths per minute
  • Shaking
  • Confusion, which may be more common among older people
  • Sepsis can move into severe sepsis quickly, so getting help and treatment as quickly as possible is vital

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