Pharmacists’ Role in Educating Patients About A Global Health Crisis: Sepsis

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The World Health Organization is raising concern around sepsis, which it has categorized as a global health threat.

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness causing organs to shut down as a result of the body’s response to an infection.

Untreated infections or infections that are treated with suboptimal therapeutics can lead to the spread of bacteria into the blood stream which can then spread to the body and cause sepsis.

Widespread antimicrobial resistance is becoming more prevalent and as such is also contributing to the increased rates of sepsis.

Approximately one in every 18 deaths in Canada is a result of sepsis. Typical symptoms include:

  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Fever, shivering or feeling very cold
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Disorientation or confusion

In the last several years, researchers have been trying to develop and make available a handheld device to help predict sepsis by using a glucose-like monitor that takes a drop of blood.

Pharmacists can play an active role in managing the sepsis crisis by understanding how to identify sepsis in patients early on so that treatment can start immediately.

Pharmacists are encouraged to education their patients on the signs and symptoms of sepsis so that they can have better awareness of this illness and seek immediate medical care if they suspect they might have sepsis. Patients should especially keep an eye on infections that are not improving or getting worse.

Pharmacists and other health care providers can provide awareness of sepsis through infection prevention by providing vaccination programs/workshops and information on antibiotic use and chronic disease management.