Bacteremia is the presence of bacteria in the blood. People sometimes refer to bacteria in the blood as “blood poisoning” but the problem is bacteria, not a poison. The bacteria get into the bloodstream in a variety of ways including infection in the skin, bladder, lungs, abdomen, or just about any part of the body. By the time infection gets into the blood, the disease is pretty severe. If your blood pressure is too low, you may need special medicine to keep the blood pressure high (pressors) and need to be in the intensive care unit. Antibiotics are necessary to stop the spread of the bacteria and fight off the disease.

High fever (especially a sudden fever), chills, fast heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, feeling very ill, looking very ill

Bacteremia is diagnosed by checking for bacteria in the blood with a blood culture. Your doctor may suspect bacteremia if you have an infection elsewhere in the body and fast heart rate or low blood pressure.

The treatment for bacteremia is antibiotics. If you are severely ill, you will need to be treated in the intensive care unit where medications can also be given to raise blood pressure and treat severe sepsis. Most of the time, bacteremia requires staying at the hospital in order to get intravenous (IV) antibiotics. After having IV antibiotics for a period of time, your doctor may switch over to ones that you can take by mouth.