How Do You Get Blood Poisoning? Symptoms & Treatment Options

Blood poisoning is a colloquial term used for a medical terminology bacteremia or sepsis. It indicates presence of bacteria in blood. Blood poisoning or bacteremia is a dangerous condition which when left untreated can lead to death of a person.

Usually the immune system of a healthy person is so strong that minor bacterial infection is typically eliminated from the body with its active involvement. However, when bacteria are in abundant number and have potential to spread into the blood due to weak immune system, it can infiltrate and cause serious bodily response which medically is known as bacteremia or sepsis.

High temperature, rapid heart and respiratory rate, raised white blood cell count, and other systemic symptoms are characteristic feature of blood poisoning. Early detection of the illness and administration of antibiotics is the mainstay treatment of blood poisoning. Delay in treatment may have fatal consequences.

What Are The Causes Of Blood Poisoning?

Blood poisoning or bacteremia is presence of bacteria in the blood. In a normal healthy person there are hundreds of bacteria residing on skin surface, intestine and lining of genitourinary tract. They live harmoniously and do not pose any risk to the health of a person.

In fact they complement the immune system in fighting against harmful bacteria.

Blood poisoning occurs when a person has low immunity. Harmful organisms especially bacteria may find an opportunity of entry into the system. Once they enter, they can infect certain part of body; for example the urinary system or the respiratory tract or the kidneys or the abdomen. Thus a person may suffer from urinary tract infection or pneumonia, or pyelitis, or an infection in abdomen.

Bacteria from this infection enter into the bloodstream and multiply rapidly because of low immunity. Person who is already sick and is hospitalized for a treatment of disease is at greater risk of developing bacteremia. He may be susceptible to secondary infection. This infection causing bacteria are more dangerous because they may have developed resistance to antibiotics.

A person is also at risk of developing blood poisoning if he is old, has severe wounds and burn injury, HIV infection, has implanted any catheter in urinary tract or a ventilator device or is on chemotherapy or steroid for long duration. The bacteria might enter into the bloodstream through unsterilized instruments such as needles, catheters and abscesses.

Signs And Symptoms Of Blood Poisoning

Blood poisoning is dangerous disease. The symptoms are very quick to develop. The patient appears toxic at a first glance. Blood poisoning may occur from an infection already present in the body such as pneumonia, abscess, infected surgical wound, and untreated injury etc.

Following are some of the important symptoms that may indicate a person is having bacteremia.

  • High grade fever
  • Rapid heart and pulse rate
  • Fever with chills
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Low blood pressure

The condition may worsen without any adequate treatment.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Low urine output
  • Rashes and red spots on skin surface
  • Shock

Treatment Options For Blood Poisoning

If the doctor suspects the condition to be blood poisoning, the first thing he will do is to recommend blood culture. This test helps to detect the bacteria or an organism that is involved. In some cases patient’s sputum, stool and urine sample are also sent for culture.

Early detection of the illness can help to reduce mortality. Normally patient is hospitalized in an ICU if the condition is severe. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics usually help to improve the condition and survival of the patient. However, in some people there is an associated potential risk as in elderly and children because of their low immune status. People with catheter, breathing tubes, are at greater risk.

Certain home remedies during blood poisoning may be useful provided the state of patient is stable and the condition is mild or moderate.

  • Vitamin C in its natural form is effective in building up the immune system. Patient may eat citrus fruits and take vitamin C supplements.
  • Yogurt contains healthy bacteria. Eating yogurt two times in a day will help to strengthen the digestive system.
  • Drinking a decoction prepared from Echinacea herb is beneficial to stimulate the immune system.