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Reviewed 9/8/2021

Sepsis: True or false?

More than 1.7 million Americans develop sepsis every year. But it's not widely understood. Sepsis happens when an infection gets out of control and causes a chain reaction in your body's immune system. Take this quiz to learn who is most at risk and what you can do to avoid it.

1. Sepsis is not dangerous.

False. Sepsis can be life-threatening if it is not treated quickly. In severe cases, it can lead to organ failure or death. It's important to get help as soon as possible if you think you may have sepsis.

2. An unusually high heart rate is one symptom of sepsis.

True. Some other signs include fever, shortness of breath, disorientation, low blood pressure and extreme discomfort. If you have an infection that isn't getting better and are experiencing any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away.

3. Sepsis is less common among younger, healthier adults.

True. People over 65, under 1 year old or with chronic conditions—like diabetes, cancer or lung disease—are most at risk. If you've had sepsis before, have recently been severely sick or have a weak immune system, you are also at higher risk.

4. Most people get sepsis after catching an infection in the hospital.

False. Most infections that cause sepsis start at home. Some ways to reduce your risk are to manage chronic health conditions well, keep any cuts or scrapes clean, and wash your hands regularly.

5. Sepsis usually requires hospital care.

True. If you or a loved one is showing symptoms of sepsis, get help right away. In most cases, sepsis patients are treated in an intensive care unit. They may need antibiotics, oxygen or medications to ensure their blood pressure stays under control.

Reducing the risk of infection can keep sepsis at bay. One simple solution: Wash your hands often.

See the best way to wash.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Merck Manuals; National Institute of General Medical Sciences

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