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How to Avoid Getting Sepsis in the Hospital or Nursing Home

Steven Peck May 30, 2019

Even though you do not hear much about sepsis, the complication can kill a person in a matter of days. Many cases of the illness develop from infections, with hospitals and nursing homes being primary places to contract this disease. Because one person every two minutes dies from sepsis (270,000 Americans a year), you need to know how to avoid getting sepsis in the hospital or nursing home.

Around 1.7 million Americans a year get sepsis. Out of all the reasons people in hospitals can possibly die, one-third of all hospital deaths are from sepsis. While you might count yourself lucky if you manage to survive a bout of sepsis, you could face these bleak consequences:

  • Decreased quality of life

  • Chronic pain and fatigue

  • Amputations

  • Organ dysfunction

  • Cognitive and functional impairments

  • A greater likelihood of additional hospitalizations and dependence on caregivers

Sepsis – the Silent Killer

Despite how lethal and widespread this disease is, more than one-third of Americans say they have not even heard of sepsis. You cannot take steps to avoid something, you do not know exists.

Sepsis happens when your body goes into high gear trying to fight an infection. Your immune system will release chemicals into your bloodstream to attack the infection. When your body over-reacts, you can have a chain reaction that leads to dangerous inflammation throughout your body. It is as if your immune system used a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.

When the over-reaction rages, you can go into septic shock. Your blood pressure can plummet, which can cause stroke, heart failure, respiratory failure, or the shutdown of other organs. It is essential to get medical intervention immediately, since sepsis is a firestorm throughout the body.

Who Is at Risk for Sepsis?

Over half of all cases of sepsis are in people over the age of 65. You can get sepsis from any type of infection, and older adults are more prone to infection, since their immune systems become less effective over time. Many of the medications that mature adults take suppress the immune system, increasing the risk of infection.

Lower levels of physical activity increase the risk of pneumonia and other infections. People with mobility issues or who use catheters, tend to have higher instances of urinary tract infections. Pneumonia and UTIs are the two most common infections that precede sepsis.

Avoiding Sepsis

The CDC considers hospitals (especially intensive care units) and nursing homes to be breeding grounds for sepsis. People who are bedridden in any setting, including at home, are vulnerable to this disease. To prevent sepsis, you have to prevent infections.

You should insist that anyone caring for you, whether in the hospital, nursing home, or in your home, washes their hands properly before administering any services to you. The failure to wash hands properly or at all is the number one reason people get infections in the hospital. Health care workers should wear gloves and change them between every patient.

Catheters, breathing tubes and other invasive devices cause many cases of sepsis, so make sure that these items are sterilized. Pressure sores lead to many instances of the disease, so caregivers must follow the protocols for preventing these painful conditions.


AARP. “Protect Yourself from Sepsis.” (accessed May 2, 2019)