What is Bacteremia?

Bacteremia is a condition in which bacteria are present in the bloodstream. It is commonly caused by bacterial infections, such as sepsis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections. Bacteremia can cause a range of serious symptoms and complications, which can be life-threatening if not treated properly.

Symptoms of Bacteremia

Symptoms of bacteremia may vary depending on the type of infection that caused it. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills and shaking
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Confusion

Causes of Bacteremia

Bacteremia is usually caused by a bacterial infection somewhere in the body. Common causes of bacteremia include:

  • Sepsis – a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection
  • Pneumonia – an infection of the lungs
  • Urinary tract infections – infections of the bladder or kidneys
  • Skin infections – infections of the skin caused by bacteria or other organisms
  • Blood transfusions – the transmission of bacteria from an infected donor
  • Medical procedures – bacteria can enter the bloodstream during certain invasive procedures, such as a spinal tap or dialysis


If your doctor suspects that you may have bacteremia, they will do a physical exam and order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Common diagnostic tests for bacteremia include a blood culture, a complete blood count (CBC), and a urine test. These tests can help your doctor identify the bacteria causing the infection, as well as any potential complications.


Treatment for bacteremia will depend on the type of infection and the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria in your bloodstream. In some cases, you may need to be hospitalized for intravenous antibiotics. If the infection has caused any complications, such as organ damage, you may also need additional treatments. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.


The best way to prevent bacteremia is to prevent the underlying infections that can cause it. You can do this by practicing good hygiene and taking steps to prevent infection, such as washing your hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and getting vaccinated against certain infections. It is also important to see your doctor promptly if you think you may have an infection.