Septicemia: What Are the Symptoms of Blood Poisoning?

Health Education
May 3, 2021
5 mins
Septicemia: What Are the Symptoms of Blood Poisoning?

Having an infection is no fun at all.  The last thing you want is for it to get worse, but that can sometimes happen.  Blood poisoning or septicemia is very dangerous and affects more than a million Americans every year.  But what exactly is septicemia, and how could you get it?  Here are the answers to those and more questions about blood poisoning.

What is septicemia?

Septicemia is an extreme reaction to an infection in which the blood spreads the infection all around your body.  It is also known as blood poisoning.  Septicemia occurs when bacteria from an infection in the skin or lungs enters the bloodstream.  Because the infection is quickly spread throughout the body through the vascular system, septicemia can be very serious.

Sepsis is similar to septicemia, but it is not the same.  This more severe complication from blood poisoning causes inflammation, which can cause blood clots.  These can clog arteries, block vital organs, and potentially be fatal.  

What are the symptoms of blood poisoning?

Symptoms of blood poisoning appear quickly.  A person with septicemia will get more and more symptoms rapidly.  Common signs of blood poisoning include:

● Fever

● Chills

● Nausea

● Vomiting

● Dizziness

● Confusion and lethargy

● Rapid breathing and heart rate

● Sensitivity to light

● Extreme discomfort or pain

● Small, red dots on the skin

● Cold extremities

If someone starts showing these symptoms of blood poisoning, it is important to take them to the hospital right away.  Septicemia can quickly become sepsis and even lead to septic shock, which is often fatal.  Call 911 or head directly to the ER if you or a loved one experiences these symptoms.

What causes septicemia?

Blood poisoning is caused by bacterial infections from other parts of the body spreading into the bloodstream.  Infections that can lead to septicemia include UTIs, lung infections like pneumonia, kidney infections, skin infections, and infections in the intestines.

The bacteria that cause blood poisoning are Staphylococcus aureus (staph), Escherichia coli (E. coli), and streptococcus.  Direct exposure to these germs, such as from improperly prepared food, can also cause blood poisoning.

Who is most likely to get septicemia?

Blood poisoning is most common in people who are already hospitalized for an infection.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three patients who dies in a hospital has sepsis.  This is because the body is already weakened and more susceptible to infection.  People with weak immune systems are also at risk, including the very young and the elderly.

Can I prevent blood poisoning?

The best way to prevent septicemia is to live a healthy lifestyle.  Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and getting enough sleep can all be beneficial in keeping you safe from blood poisoning and other infections and diseases.  If you have diabetes, cancer, or any other sickness that weakens your immune system, staying as healthy as you can is very important.  Talk to your doctor regularly about maintaining your health.

Washing your hands also goes a long way in preventing septicemia and many other illnesses.  Be sure to wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds.  It’s especially important to wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating, and after touching anything dirty.

A medical provider you can trust

Whether you have an infection you don’t want to develop into something more serious like blood poisoning or another medical issue, you need a healthcare provider you can count on.  Bass Medical Group is committed to taking the best care possible of their patients.  Call (925) 350-4044 today to schedule an appointment.