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Can Abdominal Pain Be a Sign of Sepsis?

July 15, 2020

Sepsis symptoms listed on Sepsis Alliance’s TIME™ memory aid are the basic, most common sepsis symptoms: changes in body temperature (high or low), signs or suspicion of infection, changes in mental statues, and extreme illness. However, there might be other symptoms related to sepsis based on where the infection is. Abdominal pain is one such symptom. Here is a short Q&A addressing abdominal pain and some other sepsis symptoms.

What causes abdominal pain in sepsis?

Many infections that cause sepsis start in the abdomen. They include appendicitis, intestinal E. Coli infections, perforated bowel, uterine infections, and more. Peritonitis, an infection inside the abdominal lining, can also occur. Regardless of the cause, the pain can be severe and many survivors say it was the worst pain they had ever felt. Severe abdominal pain may also cause nausea and vomiting, which can in turn increase the pain and cause dehydration if you’re not able to replace lost fluids.

If you have any signs of infection and you are experiencing abdominal pain, seek medical help immediately to reduce the risks of the infection triggering sepsis or catching it in the early stages.

Why is fatigue a frequent factor in sepsis?

When your body detects an infection, your immune system ordinarily is stimulated to fight the microbes that are trying to cause damage. This take a lot of effort so the very act of fighting off an infection can make you very fatigued. “Get plenty of rest” is frequently advised by  healthcare professionals  if you have an infection. This fatigue can continue after the infection is as your body recovers.

Do some seniors with urinary tract infections really just get confused, but don’t have other symptoms?

One of the common signs of sepsis is an altered mental status. People with sepsis can be difficult to wake up or they may be confused, or seem out of it. This is a common symptom among seniors as their body tries to fight an infection even if there are no other outward symptoms. For this reason, anyone whose behavior changes for no noticeable reason should be checked for an infection.

Do all people with sepsis get short of breath?

Shortness of breath indicates that your lungs are struggling. It could be a sign of pneumonia or some other respiratory infection. But your lungs may also struggle if the infection is elsewhere. You may find yourself start to breathe too quickly. This happens when your brain gets messages that your blood is not getting enough oxygen to your body’s tissues and it tries to cope by increasing your breathing rate. However, breathing quickly is not always efficient. It can tire you out more quickly and short rapid breaths may still not get enough oxygen into your blood.


If you suspect you have an infection and you aren’t feeling well in general, seek help as quickly as possible and say the words, “I am concerned about sepsis.”

To learn more about sepsis and associated conditions or issues, visit the Sepsis and… library.