Luke Hanoman, 28, knew that biting his nails was a bad habit, but he never realized it could kill him.
“It was a nervous thing,” the father of two from Southport, Britain, told The Mirror. “And one day I bit the skin down the side of my nail. It hurt a bit but I didn’t think anything of it.”
In the days that followed, Hanoman kept going to work despite feeling ill with flu-like symptoms and his finger became swollen.
“I started going really weird and I couldn’t focus,” he told the publication.
When he ended up accidentally sleeping until 2 p.m. on his day off, his mother rushed him to a hospital with red lines all over his body, Hanoman told The Sun. Doctors diagnosed him with sepsis from his infected finger injury, and told him he could have died.
“It was quite scary,” he told the publication. “They told me I was lucky to make it so long. I was close to septic shock.”
Sepsis is a massive immune system response to infection that, left unchecked, can result in tissue damage, organ failure and death, reports the Sepsis Alliance. Each year, more than 1.7 million people in the United States are diagnosed with sepsis and 270,000 die from it.
It’s the top cause of death among people who are already hospitalized, the organization says.
Symptoms can include shivering, fever, chills, pain, pale or discolored skin, sleep, lethargy and shortness of breath, according to the Sepsis Alliance.
"Waiting too long is dangerous," Dr. Steven Simpson, the medical director of the Sepsis Alliance, told BuzzFeed News.. "When you have these kind of symptoms people need to seek medical attention.”
Hanoman spent four days in the hospital recovering from the infection in July.
“I knew nothing about sepsis before this,” he told The Mirror. “I think it’s important people know that it can target anyone at any age.”
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests cutting your nails short or applying bitter-tasting nail polish to break the habit of biting your nails, along with other tips.