If you\u2019ve been hospitalized with a serious illness or for a medical procedure, your medical team was watching you closely for signs of infection.\nInfections that occur in the hospital can lead to many harmful conditions. Sepsis is among the most serious of these.\nWhat Is Sepsis?\nSepsis\u00a0is a life-threatening condition that can occur when there is an infection in your body.\nIf your body is working hard to fight an infection, your immune system releases infection-fighting chemicals into your bloodstream.\u00a0 These not only fight the infection, but can trigger a response throughout the body causing inflammation and changes that can damage multiple organ systems.\nWhen this severe infection response causes harm to your own organs, it is called sepsis, which is defined as a life-threatening condition that arises when the body\u2019s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs.\nIn the worst cases, your circulation is affected. This is called\u00a0septic shock, which is when your blood pressure drops to life-threatening levels. Septic shock is fatal in up to 50 percent of patients who experience it.\nAccording to the\u00a0National Institutes of Health, more than one million Americans are diagnosed with sepsis each year.\nYou can take simple steps to help prevent sepsis, including washing your hands, keeping cuts and wounds clean, taking medication\u2014especially antibiotics\u2014as prescribed by your doctor, and receiving your annual flu vaccine.\n\nCauses of Sepsis\nAny infection in your body can lead to sepsis, though most infections clear up when quickly and properly treated.\nLung, skin, kidney, and abdominal infections are more likely to cause sepsis. Although sepsis is not contagious, some infectious illnesses can result in sepsis.\nTo diagnosis sepsis, your doctors will ask about symptoms and perform a series of tests, which may include blood tests, an x-ray, or CT scan.\nSepsis Symptoms: Knowing the Signs of Sepsis\nSepsis can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages, as the symptoms can be similar to other conditions.\nDoctors look for two or more of the following symptoms before diagnosing sepsis:\n\nA fast heart rate above 90 beats per minute\nA rapid Breathing rate above 22 breaths per minute\nAn existing infection, which is evident when a blood test shows very high or very low white blood count levels\nBody temperature above 101 degrees\u00a0Fahrenheit or below 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit\n\nOther symptoms that you may recognized include:\n\nChanges in mental status, such as confusion or disorientation\nShivering or chills\nClammy or sweaty skin\nShortness of breath\nFeeling \u201coff\u201d or the worst you have ever felt\nSevere pain or discomfort\n\nIf you have any of these sepsis symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.\nSepsis Treatment: Learning About Your Care Options\nWhen sepsis is detected, doctors work quickly to treat the infection. They may use any of the following treatments, depending on your specific case:\n\nIntravenous antibiotics\nIntravenous fluids to help correct blood pressure\nInsulin to stabilize blood sugar\n\nIf you have a case of sepsis or especially septic shock, it may require life-saving measures. You may need the high level of care provided by an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).\nSome people who have had sepsis experience complications after being released from the hospital. If that happens to you, talk to your doctor about ways to relieve any remaining symptoms.\nThe sooner you are treated for sepsis, the greater your likelihood of survival. However, survival rates also depend on the cause of sepsis, pre-existing conditions, and your overall health.\nRisk Factors for Sepsis\nPeople with a greater risk for sepsis include:\n\nNewborn babies, especially those who are premature or have a low birth weight\nThose older than 65, especially if they have chronic illness like\u00a0diabetesor\u00a0high blood pressure\nPeople with diseases that weaken their immune system, such as HIV\/AIDS or cancer\nPatients being treated in an intensive care unit\nPatients with feeding tubes or breathing tubes\n\nYou can reduce your risk of infection and developing sepsis through\u00a0good hygiene\u00a0and staying up to date on\u00a0vaccinations. If you have an infection that\u2019s not getting better or is getting worse, seek immediate medical care. Being aware of and alert to the symptoms of sepsis could save your life.\nHow You Can Prevent Sepsis\nYou can take basic steps to help prevent sepsis.\n\nGet the flu vaccine every year. Wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with those with the cold and flu.\nTo prevent pneumonia, meningitis, or other infections, get the pneumococcal vaccine.\nBe sure to clean wounds and scrapes\nDon\u2019t smoke or use your tobacco products. Those who do not smoke are less likely to get the cold, flu, or pneumonia.