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What is bacteremia?

Bacteremia is when there is bacteria in the blood. Bacteremia happens when germs from infections in your body travel to your blood. It can also be caused by a catheter or drain that is inserted into the body and left in place. Examples of catheters and drains include a port-a-cath, PICC line, dialysis catheter, abdominal drain, or a urinary catheter.

What increases my risk for bacteremia?

  • A recent infection anywhere in the body such as an infected wound, or pneumonia
  • Being very young or very old
  • A long-term condition such as COPD, heart failure, or diabetes
  • A weak immune system from a long-term condition or medicine
  • A recent injury or a large burn
  • A recent surgical or dental procedure
  • IV drug abuse

What are the signs and symptoms of bacteremia?

  • Fever or shaking chills
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Changes in mental status, such as confusion
  • A rash, purple spots, or redness over most of the body
  • Irritability or poor feeding in children
  • Signs and symptoms of an infection in other body parts such as nausea and vomiting, pain, or trouble breathing

How is bacteremia diagnosed?

  • Blood and urine tests will show infection, organ function, and give information about your overall health. They may also show what germ is causing your infection.

How is bacteremia treated?

  • Antibiotics may be given to treat an infection.
  • Removal or change of a catheter or drain may be needed to get rid of the infection.
  • Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work. Surgery may be done to remove an abscess or infected tissue.

How can I help prevent bacteremia?

  • Care for catheters and drains as directed. Wash your hands before and after you touch your catheter or drain. Follow directions for dressing changes and bathing. Watch for signs and symptoms of infection such as pus, fever, swelling, pain, or drainage. Report symptoms immediately to your healthcare provider.
  • Get vaccinated. Get all recommended vaccinations. The pneumonia and influenza vaccines may prevent lung infections that could cause bacteremia.

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You have a seizure or lose consciousness.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You feel extremely weak and have a hard time moving.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your symptoms, such as fever, get worse, even if you are taking medicine to treat the infection.
  • You stop urinating or urinate very little.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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