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Blood Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Blood Poisoning

What Is Blood Poisoning

Blood poisoning is a non-medical term to describe the presence of toxic elements in the blood. It occurs when bacteria get into the bloodstream. The presence of bacteria in the blood is medically called bacteremia or septicemia. When any part of the body is infected, e.g. Lungs or abdomen, the infection may travel from that organ to the bloodstream.  The medical condition of having severe blood poisoning is called sepsis. It is an initial stage of sepsis. Sepsis can prove fatal if left untreated.

Blood Poisoning Causes

Almost all cases of sepsis are because of bacterial infections. Few cases are also due to fungi or viruses. These toxic agents could be acquired from the immediate environment, or as a result of being in the hospital during the treatment of some other disease. The infectious agents, usually bacteria, then spread to bloodstream from the infected organ of the body. These bacteria produce toxins. The toxins cause the immune system to attack the body’s own cells. Simple routine activities can also prove to be a reason for getting septic microbes such as brushing teeth with an infected brush. Dental treatment with non-sterile instruments can also be a reason for getting sepsis.


Sources Of Blood Poisoning

Blood poisoning begins due to infection at a specific site. This is called a localized infection. Generally, the immune system defends the body against any infection. This is done by producing white blood cells. White blood cells protect the body against any attacking germs. However, if the immune system is weak, the infection will spread to the blood and eventually affect other parts of the body. This is why people with a weak immune system are more prone to suffer blood poisoning. This infection can be acquired through a variety of sources. Few sources of sepsis are;

  • Lung infection
  • Flu or sinus
  • Appendix infection
  • Infection of the gut tract
  • Uti (urinary tract infection)
  • Skin infection
  • Post-surgical infection
  • Severe injury as in an accident
  • Burn or gunshot


Blood Poisoning Symptoms

Its symptoms are almost the same as other medical conditions. The best way to ensure a diagnosis is to visit a doctor. The symptoms of blood poisoning include:

  • Moderate fever
  • Chills and shivering
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations (it seems as heart skipped a beat)
  • Mental disturbance and confusion
  • Children show irritability and fatigue

These symptoms worsen as the stage of sepsis worsens.


Blood Poisoning Treatment

Treatment of blood poisoning involves hospitalization for several days. Doctors prescribe different lab tests to identify the type of bacteria. They also examine the number of white blood cells in the blood sample taken. Then, the doctors advise the relevant dose of antibiotics and other medicines that have to be given intravenously (directly into the vein). This is because blood poisoning can drastically change itself into sepsis which is a life-threatening condition. Doctors replace intravenous antibiotics by oral medicines after two to four days. However, in the case of early diagnosis, doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics only. One may take 8 to 10 days to recover completely from blood poisoning.

If sepsis is left untreated, it can do vital damage to body organs and cause organ failure. That is why the treatment of sepsis should start as soon as a diagnosis occurs. Sepsis is the leading cause of death in critically ill patients in the United States.

Read our more detailed article: Lead Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment


Blood Poisoning Prevention

Blood poisoning can be contagious. The person suffering can prove to be a carrier of sepsis. Prevention and early diagnosis is the best way to treat the problems sepsis causes. General hygiene precautions are advisable. Few of them are the following:

  • Hand sanitation
  • Using surgical masks and gloves
  • Clothing coverage during handling patient
  • Taking care of any cuts and open wounds
  • Avoiding smoking and drugs
  • Eat a healthy diet to strengthen the immune system
  • Visiting a doctor in case of any problem like toothache, sinus or ear infection.


Blood Poisoning Rash

Blood Poisoning Rash
Blood Poisoning Rash

Patients of blood poisoning often suffer a rash-like condition with an internal ruptured blood vessel. This condition is called septic rash. The septic rash looks like a cluster of tiny blood-like spots. With time, these spots accumulate to form a bruise. It results in skin color discoloration changing to purplish and skin damage. To identify if the rash is because of blood poisoning, you may press it. It will not fade away unlike other skin rashes.

Read Our More Detailed Articles: Heat Rash: Treatment, Causes & How To Prevent?


Blood Toxicity Test

The toxicity test is for finding potential toxins in the blood. High levels of these toxins are due to exposure to heavy metals or different chemicals. Doctors also check the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood to assist in timely diagnosis. However, no specific single test can confirm the case of blood poisoning. The combination of lab test results of the blood sample and physical examination of symptoms by health care professionals help to decide if the patient has sepsis or not. These tests include general tests such as the complete picture (CP) and culture test of the blood sample.


Septic Shock

Septic shock is the severe form of sepsis. In such conditions, the blood pressure level gets too low. The organs of the body fail to receive adequate oxygen levels. The symptoms of septic shock include mental disorientation, disturbed gut (e.g diarrhea), less flow of urine, pale skin. In the most severe case, it can also cause a loss of consciousness. Septic shock is a case of a medical emergency and one should rush to the hospital ER.

Must Read Our More Detailed Article: Sepsis & Septicemia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment



Blood poisoning is having infectious bacteria in the bloodstream. Blood can become infected with bacteria from a localized infection. Sepsis is severe. Sepsis can prove to be a fatal condition if left untreated. Combination of different lab tests and doctors on-hand physical examination can lead to timely diagnosis. Treatment of sepsis should start as soon as it is diagnosed.

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