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10 Ways You Can Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

If you find yourself having to pee frequently or feel the need to go immediately when the urge comes; if it hurts or burns when you go to the bathroom; or if there’s blood in your urine, you might have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Abdominal pressure and cloudy or bad-smelling pee can also be signs of UTIs.

Once you’ve had a UTI, there’s a good chance you’ll have one again. Read below to learn what UTIs are, who gets them most, and what you can do to prevent them.

What Is a UTI

A UTI is caused by bacteria in the urinary tract—the kidneys, bladder, and the tubes that connect them and then get rid of the urine.

Most UTIs are in the bladder, which holds your urine before you pee. They can also happen in your kidneys, where urine is created before it goes to the bladder.

It’s important to be aware if you have symptoms of urgency and pain plus fever, back pain, and nausea or vomiting, you might have a kidney infection.

Who Gets UTIs and Why

Anyone can get a UTI, but women get them more often.  About 25-35 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 40 get UTIs. Since they're a result of getting germs in your urinary tract, they can be caused by things that bring germs in close contact with your urinary tract. For example:

  • Wiping from back to front after you’ve had a bowel movement
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Using a diaphragm or condoms and spermicides for birth control
  • Having a catheter (a tube used to drain urine from the bladder)

They can also be caused by:

  • Waiting too long to pee, allowing germs to grow in your bladder
  • Having a kidney stone that makes it hard to empty your bladder
  • Physical conditions like diabetes that makes it hard for your immune system to fight germs
  • Menopause, which reduces the hormone estrogen that helps keep infection at bay

How To Prevent UTIs

If you’re someone who gets a lot of UTIs, you want to stay clean (without using harsh products) and avoid irritation of the urethra – which can make it easier to get infections.

Here are some things you can try:

  1. Make sure you urinate when you need to (every four hours).
  2. Stay clean by wiping the right way (front to back) after going to the bathroom and washing your bottom with soap and water every day.
  3. Some urologists recommend you stop drinking caffeine and soft drinks. They irritate the urethra (the tube that lets urine leave the body).
  4. Change your birth control if you use spermicides, which can cause irritation.
  5. Avoid feminine hygiene products and douching: they're irritants too.
  6. Ask your doctor about vaginal estrogen if you’re past menopause.

Although there’s no medical evidence the below tips work, they fall into the “can’t hurt to try” category:

  1. Drink lots of water – aim for six to eight glasses a day. It may help you flush out the germs and keep them from growing.
  2. Take showers instead of baths.
  3. Wear cotton underwear (or cotton crotch) and avoid tight fitting pants that hold moisture.
  4. Go to the bathroom right before and after you’ve had sex.

What To Do If You Think You Have a UTI

See your doctor, especially if you have a fever along with nausea or vomiting. They’ll take a urine sample to find out what’s going on. An untreated UTI can cause serious problems with your kidneys, so you don’t want to ignore it.

Treatment usually requires antibiotics (drinking cranberry juice doesn’t do the trick). If one antibiotic doesn’t work you might have to try a different one or other approaches.

Meet the Author

Edward J. Rosenthal, MD is a board-certified Urologist at Aurora Health Center in West Allis, Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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