Urinary tract infections, infected pressure sores, and lower respiratory infections are initially local infections. If assessed and treated early these infections can be contained to that location. Unfortunately, as Everyday EMS Tips readers, are well aware local infections can go unnoticed, especially in bed confined patients, for days.
I am sure you have responded to calls that go something like this:
“We thought she might have a UTI. Now today she has developed a high fever.”
“The doctor has been treating pressure sores on the patient’s ankles, but now we see red streaks running up the patient’s legs.”
“He has been coughing for days, but now he has a fever, I can’t get him to wake up, and his blood pressure is really low.”
Any of these patients could (and likely is) septic. As an EMS professional you need to:
1. Remember your role in preventing local infection by always washing your hands, using appropriate PPE to protect you and the patient, and practice aseptic technique.
2. Learn more about the causes, risks, and prevention strategies for healthcare acquired infections from the CDC Website.
3. Get in the habit of assessing the oral temperature of any patient that has or you suspect has a local or systemic infection. Fever is a sign of sepsis.
4. Read this short and informative blog post from the iTriage health blog about Sepsis. Three of the four criteria for Severe Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) can be assessed by any EMS professional.
5. Follow your local protocols for a confirmed or suspect septic patient. Care may include airway management, ventilation support if indicated, high flow oxygen, IV access for fluid administration, and even medications if the patient is hypotensive.