A young girl developed a pimple on her face. She decided (as you do) to ‘burst’ the pimple and release the stuff inside. She did but with dirty hands and fingernails. A few days later, the area became red and inflamed and went on to develop into a life-threatening infection of the whole face. This also involved the brain and put her in coma. She required an operation and serious antibiotics treatment before making a full recovery.
However, it was close and she could have died easily.
The most minor infections can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is an extremely serious condition, due to an overwhelming reaction of the body to infection. The infection causes the body to release chemicals as a defence mechanism. However, the chemicals themselves can cause widespread inflammation, which can then damage the body organs and cause death. Sepsis is a medical emergency.
Anyone can get sepsis, but the elderly, young children and those who have diminished immunity as a result of some other medical condition, are particularly at risk.
How is it treated?
1. Broad-spectrum antibiotics – these are medicines that kill many types of bacteria.
2. Oxygen and intravenous fluids
The truth is that a little infection can lead to much misery and death if ignored. A little thing like the flu, common cold, catarrh, mosquito bite, bug bite and even that nail puncture can be the harbinger of misfortune. A man who stepped on a fish bone nearly died 2 weeks later from sepsis through the tiny wound on the sole of his feet! Carelessness can be perilous.
Sometimes, it is self-medication, a visit to the local chemist or an unsuspecting medical doctor that makes a little issue assume mammoth proportions. Sometimes, it is ignorance and nonchalance that compounds the problem. Sometimes, it is articles like this that save lives.
What should you do if you think you have an infection or sepsis?
• Go to the emergency room immediately if you have any signs or symptoms of an infection or sepsis. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
• It’s important that you say, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
• If you are continuing to feel worse or not getting better in the days after any kind of surgery, ask your doctor about sepsis. Sepsis is a common complication of people hospitalized for other reasons.
What you can do to prevent sepsis
• Get yourself and your children vaccinated against pneumonia, and any other infections that could lead to sepsis. Talk to your doctor for more information.
• Prevent infections that can lead to sepsis by:
o Cleaning scrapes, cuts and wounds properly
o Practicing goodhygiene (e.g., hand washing, bathing regularly)
• If you have an infection, look for signs like: fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation.
Guidelines for what to do in case of infection and to prevent sepsis are from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dr BiodunOgungbo, Consultant Neurosurgeon in Abuja is a UK General Medical Council Registered Specialist in Neurosurgery and Nigerian Medical and Dental Council registered Surgeon. He has extensive surgical repertoire in elective and emergency surgery. He supports medical education and is active in health advocacy. He is interested in stroke and spine problems and has written extensively about these conditions.