Daily Habits to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
UTI is an acronym I wish I didn't know so well.
A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is an infection caused by E. coli bacteria entering the urethra and traveling into the bladder. It is more common in women than men due to the anatomical differences. HPV (human papillomavirus) has also been linked to an increased risk urinary tract infections. If left untreated, the infection can travel even further— into the kidneys. You'll know when you have a kidney infection when you see bloody urine.
Without warning, a UTI can infect and cause severe symptoms within just a few hours. Once the symptoms arise, your sunny afternoon may very well be spent in the emergency room or the urgent care clinic. Do not ruin a good day because of this.
This article will provide the common (and not-so-common) symptoms, preventative measures, and treatments for UTIs. The information is based on my own personal experience, having suffered more than my fair share of these infections throughout my life. I have learned a lot from my doctors over the years. It's been a few years, and I haven't had another UTI, so I can say that this advice works!
- Frequent, urgent, and painful or burning urination
- Back pain (due to infection in the kidneys)
- Bloody urine
- Lower abdominal pain or bloating
- Nausea, vomiting, fever and/or chills
- In babies: nervousness, nausea, fever and/or chills. UTIs in babies can be difficult to pinpoint and can go unnoticed.
Without treatment, a UTI can do serious damage to the kidneys.
Tips for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
These are all of the tips that my doctors have suggested to me. You should get into the habit of doing these things to lower your chances of getting infected.
- Wipe front to back: Use a different piece of tissue each time. Do not fold over to re-use.
- Do not "courtesy flush"—for yourself or anyone else while sitting on the potty: Stand up, if you must, and put the lid down. Bacteria can splash up to 6 feet during a flush.
- Wear cotton panties: Save thongs for very special occasions, or change into them right before you want to show them off.
- Pee after intercourse and after taking a shower.
- No bubble baths: Use Summer's Eve Bubble Bath if can't go without your baths. Clean your tub, and rinse the tub well immediately before your bath. However, try not to take baths, and remember to pee afterward.
- Wash any ‘toys' with soap and hot water after each use: They also make special cleansers. Again, don't forget to pee afterward.
- Don't use a loof or washcloth to clean delicate areas: Use your hands and soap instead—your hands don't hold bacteria as easily.
- Drink (sugar-free) cranberry juice: The active ingredient in cranberries help fight infections by preventing the bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract or bladder. This allows the bacteria to be expelled as you urinate.
- Limit beer, coffee, and soda: Caffeine and sugar can sometimes be the culprits.
- Use the restroom when you need to: Holding it in gives the bacteria more of a chance to establish themselves.
- Change feminine hygiene products every time you use the restroom.
- Change out of sweaty or wet underwear as soon as possible: I change my underwear at least once throughout the day (i.e. I go through 2-3 pairs in a day). It can't hurt.
What to Do if You Get a UTI
Although most of the prevention tips are effective, there will always be a chance that they do not work completely—bacteria are very crafty. In case you do get a UTI, here are some tips to help you manage it.
- Drink lots of water: If you feel a UTI coming on, drink a lot of water and Gatorade to maintain hydration. If an infection is caught early, you may be able to avoid a visit to the doctor by flushing the bacteria out yourself. If the symptoms are worsening, this may not work so well.
- Urinate as soon as you feel the need to: It is important to remember to urinate as soon as you feel the need; you will need to, with all that water you're drinking. One of three things can happen from here:
- Symptoms will get markedly better after your first trip to the bathroom.
- Symptoms will stay the same—just keep drinking water.
- Symptoms will get worse. In this case, don't wait. Go see your doctor or go to an urgent care center before the infection worsens.
- Cut out soda and caffeinated drinks: If you have a UTI, sugar and caffeine are your enemies. Keep a fresh water bottle with you, and keep sipping. Cranberry juice won't be much help at this point either. Just low-sugar or sugar-free Gatorade and plain water are recommended.
- Go see your doctor: If you notice you need to urinate more frequently (every 10 minutes or so), make an appointment with your doctor. Without treatment, the frequency will only increase—trust me.
- Take any prescribed antibiotics exactly as directed: You will get an exam and likely a prescription from your doctor.
- Take your new prescription as directed; this is important to prevent the bacteria from developing a resistance to the antibiotics.
- Do not use old UTI medication or old antibiotics. Not only will they no longer be effective, expired medicine can turn into a different substance that may cause you to react badly to it (I learned this in my chemistry class).
Again, these are tips based on my experience and suggestions from my doctors. Please visit your doctor if you have any of the symptoms above, especially if they start to worsen.
Good luck and happy peeing!