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How to recognize a possible infection early

This information is useful for every day, not just when SHTF or TEOTWAWKI.

As an emergency nurse I am evaluating every patient I come into contact with for signs and symptoms of infection, whether it is external or internal. SIRS (systemic inflammatory response syndrome) is a possible indication of a more serious condition known as sepsis, which can lead to severe sepsis and septic shock.

If a patient has a medical complaint that indicates a possible infection, such as abdominal pain, then these vital signs might give you an indication if the cause is an acute appendix or just gastritis (tummy ache).

In adults, SIRS is to be considered if the patient has two of the three vital signs out of range.

Temperature is <36 °C (96.8 °F) or >38 °C (100.4 °F)
Heart Rate is >90 beats per minute
Respiratory Rate is >20 breaths per minute

measuring the last is not possible outside a clinical setting
White Blood Cell count <4,000 or >12,000 or 10% bands

If these vital signs are outside of norms and the patient's chief complaints indicate a possible source of infection, then additional labs and diagnostic testing might be needed to find a source of infection and confirm the possibility of sepsis. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the patient’s response to an infection. An infection causes our bodies to release chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infection. Sepsis occurs when our body's response to these chemicals is out of balance, triggering low blood pressure that can damage multiple organ systems.

In the emergency department, we look at the level of lactic acid in the patient's blood. If the value is >2 then we treat for sepsis, if the value is >4 then we treat for septic shock. Treatment is based on the overall clinical picture of the patient. Keep in mind that lactic acid can be elevated for other conditions not related to an infection such as status post seizure.

A septic patient requires early treatment with large amounts of IV fluids and IV antibiotics which improves the patient’s chances of survival.

I hope this is of interest and possible help to those worried about an infection.

Over and Out
3,347 Posts
Yep, I think sepsis will be one of 'the Kraken' after SHTF, et al.. At least one of the most difficult to deal with / stock proper preps / lab, etc for... the point that 'Heroin bye-byes' just might be desirable in some circumstances... Gonna be rough seas, regardless..


20,145 Posts
I find reading vintage medical text sometimes helpful. How did they diagnose before modern labs and MRIs? How do you make a free-hand skin graft? How do you make and store gut suture?
I was lucky enough to be given some medical books by a retiring Dr who graduated in the 30's but there are reference books in medical libraries and some stuff online too.
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