I suspect I have blood poisoning. Should I see my doctor?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

"Blood poisoning" is not a medical term. But as the term is usually used, it refers to the presence of bacteria in the blood (bacteremia) — and not a poisonous substance in the blood. However, bacteremia is a serious illness and requires prompt medical attention.

When to see a doctor
If you recently had a medical or dental procedure or injection and have any of the following signs and symptoms, see your doctor right away:

  • Sudden, high fever
  • Chills
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • A feeling or appearance of serious illness

A diagnosis of bacteremia is usually confirmed by a blood culture. Treatment requires hospitalization and includes intravenous antibiotics. Without prompt treatment, bacteremia can quickly progress to severe sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition.

Apr. 25, 2012