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7 Tips to Prevent UTIs

Posted 4/26/2017 by UHBlog

Can painful urinary tract infections be stopped in their tracks? Ask us.

7 Tips to Prevent UTIs

Women who have experienced urinary tract infections (UTIs) know how pesky and painful they can be. That’s why it’s important to take steps to prevent UTIs, which account for 7 million office visits yearly in the U.S. and 1 million hospital admissions.

“UTIs are one of the most common acute conditions affecting women in primary care,” says certified nurse practitioner Julie Bradford, CNP. “The majority of UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria that travel from the intestinal tract to the bladder. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications and ensure that the infection doesn’t travel to the kidneys.”

According to Bradford, UTI symptoms include:

  • Frequent and intense urge to urinate
  • Painful, burning feeling in the bladder or urethra during urination
  • Feeling tired, shaky and weak
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Only small amounts of urine passed, despite a strong urge to urinate
  • Cloudy, dark or bloody urine or urine that has a foul smell
  • Pain in the back or side below the ribs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever, which may indicate a kidney infection

“If you have UTI symptoms, seek medical help quickly to ease discomfort and prevent the spread of the infection to the kidneys,” says Bradford. “If a urine test indicates bacteria or an elevated white blood cell count, the UTI needs to be treated with bacteria-fighting medications like antibiotics or antimicrobials. Always take the full course of treatment to prevent recurrent infections.”

Bradford says that women most prone to having UTIs are those who are sexually active, pregnant or post-menopausal.

“Also, women who suffer from chronic conditions that require a catheter are more at risk for UTIs because the catheter can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract,” she says.

To prevent or reduce the risk of developing a UTI, Bradford offers the following seven tips:

  1. Drink lots of water. Fluids flush out the bad bacteria in your system, helping to prevent infection. Start with one extra glass of water per meal.
  2. Go to the bathroom often. Never go more than four hours during the day without emptying your bladder, even if you don’t feel the urge to go. Bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder too long.
  3. Urinate after intercourse. This helps flush away bacteria that might have entered the urethra during sex.
  4. Avoid scented bathing products and douching. These can clean out healthy bacteria and raise the risk of bacterial overgrowth.
  5. Stay away from tight-fitting pants and nylon underwear. Non-breathable fabrics can trap moisture and let bacteria grow. Switch to cotton underwear.
  6. Don’t sit in a wet bathing suit for hours and avoid long baths or hot tubs. A wet environment is a breeding ground for bacteria.
  7. Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom. This helps prevent the spread of E. coli bacteria to the bladder.

What about drinking cranberry juice to prevent UTIs? As far as that "home remedy," Bradford says studies are conflicting as to whether cranberries have a benefit in preventing UTIs.

“There’s a chemical in cranberries that keeps bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall, but it's unclear how much cranberry juice a person would have to drink on a regular basis to get that benefit," she says. "The most important thing is to drink lots of liquids, and if some of your daily liquid intake is made up of cranberry juice, that’s a good thing.”

Julie Bradford, CNP, is a certified nurse practitioner specializing in family and internal medicine at University Hospitals Westshore Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Bradford or any other medical provider online.

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