12 Medical Conditions That Can Kill You in 24 Hours or Less

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Diabetic ketoacidosis

This life-threatening complication of diabetes (most often type 1) happens when insulin levels are so low that the body breaks down fat into ketones, which build up and make blood acidic. A headache, muscle stiffness, nausea, and rapid breathing are just some of the symptoms. Treatment—insulin and fluids—needs to be given promptly, or you can suffer from cerebral edema, cardiac arrest, or kidney failure. “In just 24 hours, people can experience an onset of severe symptoms, all leading to coma or death,” reports diaTribe, an advocacy magazine for those with diabetes.

Invasive group A streptococcal infection

Also called “flesh-eating strep infection” or necrotizing fasciitis, the infection is caused by a strain of the bacteria related to strep throat, says Dr. Citronberg. (Which means you don’t have to worry that your strep throat will become “flesh-eating.”) “A break in the skin via a cut can introduce bacteria that causes a rapidly progressive infection,” he says. “It may start as a red bump, and in a few hours you can almost literally watch it spread in front of your eyes.” For instance, if it starts on your foot, it would spread up your leg. Treatment involves quick identification, followed by antibiotics and surgery to remove the affected tissue. Just as with meningococcal bacteria, those without a spleen may be more at risk.

Septic shock

A bacterial infection coursing through your blood (sepsis, which is often associated with the bacteria that cause meningitis) can cause blood pressure to plummet, a condition called septic shock. If discovered, patients head to the ICU—prompt treatment is key, yet research shows that only 50 percent of patients get care within six hours. For every hour after that, the rate of survival decreases by 7.6 percent.

Toxic shock syndrome

TSS is a bacterial infection of your bloodstream that spreads toxins to organs, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. (It is often associated with tampon use.) In 2017, TSS from Staphylococcus aureus bacteria was blamed for a 16-year-old Canadian girl’s death. Authorities said she went on an overnight school trip but never woke up in the morning, per Today.com.


This virus, which you can acquire after being exposed to the droppings, urine, or saliva of infected rodents, kills 38 percent of those who fall ill, according to the CDC. The first outbreak occurred in 1973 and involved a man with shortness of breath who was rushed to the hospital and “died very rapidly,” the organization reports. Unfortunately, with flu-like symptoms, it can be tough to detect. When doctors suspect an infection, they’ll keep the patient under constant treatment and surveillance in the ICU is usually required.

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