How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Those who have had a UTI wince at the mere mention of the subject—that burning sensation and annoying feeling of constantly having to pee is enough to warrant a Google search about how to make sure this *never* happens again. And for those who haven’t had a UTI before, you’d do well to read on, too—they’re not fun.
What Exactly Is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection anywhere in your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Commonly, UTIs remain in the lower urinary tract, affecting only the urethra and the bladder.
UTIs happen as a result of bacteria entering your urethra and multiplying there. As the bacteria multiply, they can move up your urethra to reach your upper urinary tract. You can help prevent the risk of worsening the condition—and you’ll be glad you did.
With more than 3 million cases in the United States per year, UTIs are very common. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that women are more likely to develop a UTI than men, however. Forty to fifty percent of women will develop a UTI in their lifetime, and 20 to 30 percent will deal with a recurrence within as little as three months. That makes prevention methods essential to consider—the last thing you want to deal with is a recurring health issue that affects your quality of life.
Those who are sexually active are at greater risk for developing a UTI, along with women who use a diaphragm or spermicide agent as their method of birth control. Menopause can also make women more vulnerable to a urinary tract infection, along with pregnancy.
Pregnant women, in particular, should take special care to watch out for symptoms—UTIs can pose dangers for both the mama-to-be and her little one. Often, OB/GYN or family practice doctors will test for bacteria in a mother’s urine even when no symptoms show themselves.
Others at high risk for developing a UTI include those with diabetes, those with a urinary catheter in place, and those currently on heavy doses of antibiotics, which can alter natural gut flora that plays a role in the immune system.
Why Do UTIs Happen More Often During the Summer?
In addition to the risk factors outlined above, the summer season tends to increase the chances of developing a UTI. Why would something as innocuous as a date on the calendar have an effect on your urologic health? Well, there are actually quite a few reasons for this:
- Heat – As summer gets closer, the thermostat starts climbing. For many people, especially those who have to deal with months of snow and ice each winter, warmer weather means a chance to throw off their sweaters and soak in the sun’s rays (safely, of course). Unfortunately, the heat also makes it easier for bacteria and germs to grow, which can lead to the development of a UTI.
- Dehydration – During the hot summer months, it often feels like you can’t fill up your water bottle fast enough. Increased heat and humidity can make it harder to stay hydrated, and unless you’re diligent about keeping up with your water intake, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up dehydrated at least a few times this season. And let’s face it—almost everyone forgets their water bottle at home once in a while. Not only can dehydration be harmful to your overall health, but it can also put you at greater risk of developing a UTI.
- Rare bathroom breaks – Picture it: You’re at an outdoor concert, and you start feeling the urge to pee. You know you should head to the bathroom, but the line is long and your favorite band is about to start playing. So, you decide to put it off for a little longer. Alternatively, maybe you’re camping and you don’t want to venture out of the tent and into the woods in the middle of the night, so you stay put until morning. You’re not alone—many people spend more time outside during the summer and end up holding in their urine, simply because it’s not as easy to find a bathroom in the great outdoors. Although it may seem harmless enough, this can actually lead to a UTI.
- Increased sexual activity – People tend to become more sexually active during the summer, which can increase their risk of contracting a UTI. If you do choose to engage in sex, be sure to urinate afterward, since doing so can flush out harmful bacteria and lower your chances of getting an infection.
How Do You Know if You Have a UTI?
UTIs don’t always show symptoms, but most of the time, you’ll experience some combination of the following:
- A strong, near-constant urge to pee
- Small amounts of urine when using the restroom, despite the urge to urinate more
- Odorous or cloudy urine
- Pelvic pain, especially in women
- Urine that’s pink, red, or brown in color, which suggests the presence of blood
- A painful burning sensation while urinating
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical care as soon as possible to avoid the UTI traveling to your upper urinary tract. Infection in the kidneys can allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream, which can lead to sepsis. UTIs are very treatable—there’s no good reason not to seek care, so don’t wait if you think you might have a UTI.
How to Prevent a UTI
Now that you’ve read up on those symptoms, aren’t you desperate to learn how to avoid them? Whether you’ve experienced a UTI in the past or are simply doing your due diligence to avoid becoming one of that number, you’re in luck. There are a ton of things you can do to prevent a UTI:
- Stay hydrated. Urinating helps to flush unwanted bacteria out of your urinary tract. And besides, there are a million other benefits of keeping your body hydrated, so keep that water bottle at hand.
- Wipe from front to back. Doing the opposite can spread fecal bacteria to your urethra, which is a recipe for a UTI to form.
- Use the restroom after intercourse. Intercourse can introduce new bacteria to your nether regions, so make sure to visit the restroom right after. Drinking a glass of water to help the bacteria-flushing process won’t hurt, either.
- Reconsider your birth control method. Using a diaphragm or spermicide agent? These can encourage bacterial growth (even spermicide-treated condoms). Talk to your doctor about switching to a birth control method that doesn’t increase your risk of developing a UTI.
- Up your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C can make your urine more acidic, which can help kill off infectious bacteria.
- Eat more probiotics. Probiotics, which are living microorganisms that help keep your gut bacteria in check, have been proven to help our bodies function better in a whole slew of ways. One study found that a common probiotic strain called Lactobacillus helped prevent recurrent UTIs in adult women. Up your probiotic intake by eating fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. You can also take probiotics in supplement form.
Looking for Relief?
For those currently dealing with a UTI, here’s some advice for at-home relief:
- Grab that heating pad. Many UTIs come with cramping, pressure, or pelvic pain, and a heating pad could help. Keep the setting on low for a gentle warmth, and make sure to place a cloth or blanket in between your belly and the heating pad to prevent burns. If you don’t own a heating pad, a hot washcloth or water bottle can function the same way.
- Pour yourself a cup of cranberry juice. The jury’s still out on whether or not cranberry juice really helps clear UTIs faster—some studies have found benefits while others have not. But since cranberry juice contains tons of vitamin C, which can help neutralize bacteria in your urine, it’s not a bad idea to try it out—just make sure you opt for the unsweetened variety.
- Don’t resist those trips to the restroom. Urinating with a UTI can be agonizing, we know, but don’t let that stop you from using the bathroom as often as you possibly can. In fact, it’s a good idea to drink tons of water in order to go to the bathroom more—after all, you’ll want to continue flushing out bad bacteria.
UTIs in Older Adults
UTIs can be especially troublesome for older adults. Older individuals are often more prone to contracting UTIs because of underlying health conditions and other circumstances. For example, older men frequently experience an enlarged prostate, which can make it difficult for them to fully empty their bladder; this, in turn, can increase their risk of developing a UTI. Other conditions—including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease—can also lead to urinary retention. Residents of a senior living community could contract a UTI after being exposed to certain bacteria on the premises. And if an older person has to wear incontinence briefs but fails to change them often enough, it could also lead to an infection.
When older adults do develop a UTI, they often display symptoms that aren’t as common among the younger population. For example, seniors are more likely to experience confusion and other behavioral symptoms as the result of a UTI, particularly if they’re already living with dementia. Some other UTI symptoms to watch out for include:
- Reduced mobility
- Lessened appetite
- Urinary retention
Another concern is that older adults may not be able to effectively communicate that they’re experiencing the symptoms of a UTI, especially if they have dementia or a condition that makes it difficult for them to speak.
What’s more, treatments commonly recommended for younger individuals may not be as beneficial for older adults. For example, while antibiotics are generally the first line of defense against UTIs in younger people, the older population may not tolerate them as well. Many older individuals are already taking other medications, and combining them with antibiotics could be dangerous. Plus, seniors need to be especially concerned about developing a resistance to antibiotics in case they need them in the future.
Get Medical Treatment From Home
For many people, there’s only one tried-and-true way to get rid of a UTI for good, and that’s through the use of infection-fighting antibiotics. If you don’t want to deal with facing the outside world while your pain meter’s at an eight out of ten, DispatchHealth can help.
DispatchHealth offers on-demand healthcare for people of all ages in the comfort of their homes. DispatchHealth’s medical services can conveniently be requested via phone, mobile app, or on the website and a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, along with a DispatchHealth medical technician (DHMT) will arrive at your doorstep within a few hours. They will diagnose, treat, prescribe antibiotics and even call you a few days later to see how you’re doing. And in most cases, DispatchHealth will start the antibiotics during the visit to your home. Best of all, they accept most major insurance to make it affordable. Plus, they’re available seven days a week, 365 days a year including holidays.
So the next time you find yourself in need of urgent medical care, give DispatchHealth a call. We look forward to helping you find relief from whatever unpleasant symptoms you’re experiencing.
* Please note: For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article: