Sepsis: Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery

Sepsis is one of the most common causes of death in the world contributing to nearly 20% of deaths annually. By definition, sepsis is a condition characterized by multisystem organ failure due to a dysregulated host response consequent to an infection. So as in the definition, it means that whenever a patient is infected by a virus/bacteria, the body’s immunity is triggered and a series of different types of chemicals and immune-cells are activated to fight the infection. In some patients, this reaction by the immune-response may become dysregulated resulting in damage to the cells of the body causing multi-system organ failure. When the sepsis is very severe it results in low blood pressure and is called septic shock. Let me now answer a few frequently asked Questions related to sepsis:

1. Is there a vaccination for sepsis?

Ans: Sepsis is the response of the body to an infection. The infection can be caused by a bacteria, virus, fungus or any other type of microorganism. Any measure taken to prevent infection will reduce the risk of sepsis. Some micro-organisms have vaccinations, which when administered prevents or reduces the risk of infection. So there is no vaccine to prevent sepsis, but vaccines are available against specific microorganisms like pneumococcal infection, measles and other specific organisms.

2. What are the signs of sepsis in a child?

Ans: Signs of sepsis in children can be very non-specific. It can vary from increasing drowsiness, lack of appetite, to more serious symptoms like fever or low temperature, fast heart rate, fast respiratory rate, clammy and pale skin, loss of consciousness, breathlessness etc.

3. Do the elderly recover from sepsis?

Ans. Elderly patients are more prone to sepsis. Definitely, they are more prone to developing sepsis. However, when diagnosed and treated early, we can make a difference and save lives.

4. What is the management of treatment for sepsis?

Ans: Sepsis is a medical emergency. Treatment needs to be done at earliest with appropriate broad-spectrum antibiotics, intravenous fluids, admission to hospital and sometimes to Intensive care unit (ICU), if the patients are sick, in severe sepsis or septic shock

5. How long do you stay in ICU for sepsis?

Ans. ICU stay for patients with sepsis, varies depending on the severity of illness at admission. This may vary from 2 to 15 days or even more.

6. Does sepsis require ICU?

Ans. All patients with sepsis, do not need to be admitted to ICU. However, when they are very ill or have the impending risk of deteriorating, they will need to be admitted to ICU.

7. What are the early warning signs of sepsis?

Ans. The early warning signs of sepsis include – fast heart rate, fast breathing rate, change in mentation, worsening consciousness, decreasing urine output, high or low temperature, cold clammy hands. 



Dr. Sunil Karanth

Chairman and Consultant – Critical Care Medicine

Manipal Hospitals Bangalore – Old Airport Road.

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