Blood poisoning


What is Blood Poisoning?

Bacterial infection (or toxins from bacteria) in the blood that invade the entire body via the bloodstream.

Blood Poisoning signs and symptoms

  • Shaking chills.
  • Rapid temperature rise.
  • Rapid, pounding heartbeat.
  • Warm, flushed skin.
  • Confusion and other symptoms of mental impairment.
  • Drop in blood pressure.
  • General ill feeling.
  • Hyperventilation.


Infection in some other body part, such as appendix, tooth, sinus, pelvis, gallbladder or urinary tract. The sources may also be a burn, infected wound or open abscess.

Risk increases with

  • Adults over 60.
  • Newborns and infants.
  • Illness, such as diabetes, that has lowered resistance.
  • Leukemia or other cancer.
  • Use of immunosuppressive drugs or self-administered intravenous drugs.
  • Use of a catheter.
  • Complicated labor or delivery.
  • Certain surgical procedures.

Preventive measures

  • Obtain medical treatment for any infection.
  • Influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations for highrisk patients.
  • Appropriate catheter care for hospitalized patients.
  • If dental procedures have produced blood poisoning in the past or you have diseased heart valves, take antibiotics before any dental treatment including simple prophylaxis by a dentist or hygienist.

Expected outcomes

Dependent on underlying conditions, patient's health, any delay in treatment.

Possible complications

  • Shock, with very low blood pressure, overwhelming infection and death.
  • Persistent infection of the heart valves.
  • Adult respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Multi-organ failure (heart, lungs, kidney, liver).

Treatment of Blood Poisoning

General measures

  • Hospitalization; intensive care treatment for severe cases.
  • Diagnostic tests may include laboratory studies, such as culture of the blood to identify germs responsible for the illness, urinalysis and blood count.
  • Removal or drainage of source of infection.
  • Mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure.
  • Blood transfusions.

Additional Information



Bed rest during acute illness. Resume your normal activities gradually as symptoms improve.


During acute illness, intravenous feeding is usually appropriate.

Notify your physician if

  • You or a family member has symptoms of blood poisoning.
  • The following occur during treatment:
    • Reappearance of fever.
    • Signs of infection (swelling, pain, redness) anywhere in your body.
  • You plan elective surgery or a dental procedure after you have had an episode of blood poisoning.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.