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What is Blood Poisoning?

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I remember my grandfather coming in one day with a severe cut on his foot. He proceeded to soak the wound in kerosene so that he would not be “blood poisoning.” Whether or not the kerosene actually worked or had any effect at all on the cut I can’t say.

All I knew at the time was that whatever blood poisoning was, it must be serious because kerosene only came out for the “big” injuries!

What exactly is blood poisoning? According to the Mayo Clinic, blood poisoning (septicemia) is actually a systemic disease. While lay people commonly use the term blood poisoning, it’s not an actual medical term. The correct term is septicemia or sepsis. Septicemia occurs when pathogenic microorganisms (better known to you and I as germs) or other bacteria (bacteremia) are able to enter your bloodstream through some type of a wound or infection. It’s also possible for bacteria to enter your bloodstream through an injection site or as a result of a dental or other medical procedure such as a surgery. If untreated, septicemia may progress to sepsis. The difference between blood poisoning/septicemia and sepsis is that in sepsis, the germs and toxins are not limited to your bloodstream – they may also be present in other parts of your body as well.

Blood poisoning/septicemia is a serious condition. Some of the symptoms of blood poisoning include: high fever (which comes on suddenly), chills, nausea/vomiting/abdominal pain, rapid heart rate or feeling ill. Your doctor will generally confirm a diagnosis of blood poisoning by ordering a blood culture. Blood poisoning is treated with intravenous antibiotics. If you suspect that you may have blood poisoning, you need to seek immediate medical care. Left untreated, you run the risk of blood poisoning/septicemia turning into sepsis.

Sepsis may be life threatening so quick, prompt treatment is essential. Since sepsis can affect other organs and tissue besides your blood stream, it may begin to affect your body’s ability to function, resulting in septic shock, including a drop in blood pressure, which may be fatal. The sooner sepsis is treated, the better your chances will be for survival.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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