How To Prevent Uti

Medical methods involve antibiotics or a different form of birth control. Perimenopausal and postmenopausal women may benefit from estrogen therapy, which rebalances vaginal bacteria.

9 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of a UTI

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when an infection develops in your urinary system. It most often affects the lower urinary tract, which includes the bladder and urethra.

If you have a UTI, you’ll likely have a persistent need to urinate. Other common symptoms include burning when you pee and cloudy urine.

UTIs are common, but it’s possible to minimize the risk of getting one. In this article, we’ll explain the steps you can take to lower your chance of having a UTI, as well as ways to reduce the risk for people of all ages.

Women get more UTIs than men. This is because women have a shorter urethra — the tube that brings urine out of the bladder. This allows bacteria to enter the urethra and bladder more easily.

Also, a woman’s urethral opening is closer to the anus, where most UTI-causing E.coli bacteria are found.

Other factors that can further increase the risk of UTI include:

  • frequent sexual activity
  • new sexual partners
  • some types of birth control
  • menopause

In both men and women, UTI risk factors include:

  • a weakened immune system
  • urinary tract abnormalities
  • blockages in the urinary tract, such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate
  • catheter use
  • urinary surgery

UTIs can’t always be avoided, but it’s possible to reduce your risk of getting one. Here are nine prevention methods that may help you sidestep a UTI.

1. Wipe front to back

Since the rectum is a main source of E.coli, it’s best to wipe your genitals from front to back after using the bathroom. This habit decreases the risk of bringing E.coli from the anus to the urethra.

It’s even more important to do this if you have diarrhea. Having diarrhea can make it hard to control bowel movements, which may increase the chance of E.coli spreading to the urethra.

2. Drink plenty of fluids

Stay hydrated throughout the day. This will make you pee more frequently, which flushes bacteria out of your urinary tract.

Water is the best choice. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses per day. If it’s hard for you to drink that much water, you can also increase your fluid intake by drinking sparkling water, decaffeinated herbal tea, milk, or smoothies made with fruits and vegetables.

Try to limit or avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which may irritate the bladder.

3. Avoid holding your pee

Avoid holding in your urine, as this can encourage bacterial growth. Try not to wait more than 3 to 4 hours to pee, and completely empty your bladder each time.

This is even more important if you’re pregnant as pregnancy puts you at an increased risk for a UTI. Holding your pee can further increase the risk.

4. Urinate before and after sex

Sexual activity increases the chances of getting a UTI, especially if you’re a woman. That’s because bacteria can easily get into the urethra during sex.

To reduce your risk, pee immediately before and after sex. The idea is to flush out bacteria that may cause UTIs.

It’s also a good idea to gently wash your genital area before sex. This can help keep the area clean and reduce the chance of bacteria spreading to your urethra.

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5. Avoid scented products

The vagina naturally contains more than 50 different microbes, many of which are a type of bacteria called Lactobacilli. These bacteria help keep the vagina healthy and the pH level balanced.

Scented feminine products can disrupt this balance, allowing harmful bacteria to overgrow. This can result in UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, and yeast infections.

Avoid using products such as:

  • douches
  • scented pads or tampons
  • scented powders
  • deodorant sprays

Scented bath oils, soaps, and bubble baths can also irritate the genital area and cause an imbalance in vaginal bacteria.

6. Explore birth control options

Some types of birth control might promote an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This includes:

  • diaphragms
  • non-lubricated condoms
  • spermicides
  • spermicide condoms

If you think your birth control is causing UTIs, talk with your doctor. They can walk you through the different options and help you find an alternative method that’s right for you.

7. Take probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can increase good gut bacteria. They may also help promote the growth of good bacteria in the urinary tract. This could help protect you from getting a UTI.

Generally, Lactobacillistrains have been associated with less frequent UTIs. There are several ways you can take probiotics to boost the health of your urinary tract, including:

  • eating fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or tempeh
  • taking probiotic supplements
  • using probiotic suppositories

UTI Supplement Options

Read our full review of Uqora, a company that focuses on developing natural supplements for UTI prevention.

8. Get antibiotics

If you get UTIs that don’t respond well to treatment or keep coming back, your doctor might recommend a small daily dose of oral antibiotics. This can help prevent a UTI by controlling harmful bacteria.

You’ll likely have to take the antibiotics after sex or when you first notice UTI symptoms. The drawback, however, is that prolonged antibiotic use can lead to antibiotic resistance. Your doctor can determine if this is the right prevention method for you.

9. Consume cranberries

Cranberries are a traditional home remedy for preventing UTIs. The berry has compounds called proanthocyanidins that may prevent E.coli from adhering to tissues in the urinary tract.

It’s also thought that vitamin C in cranberries may increase the acidity of urine, which might reduce overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Scientific research shows conflicting results. Some studies have found that cranberry extract reduces the frequency of UTIs, while others haven’t found the same effect.

Though it’s not clear if cranberries can prevent UTIs, it’s a low-risk remedy. If you’d like to consume cranberries, opt for unsweetened, pure cranberry juice instead of sugary cranberry cocktails. You can also eat fresh or frozen cranberries.

Older adults are also at a higher risk of getting a UTI. This is often due to:

  • age-related changes in immune function
  • bladder or bowel incontinence
  • catheter use
  • cognitive impairment
  • menopause

In addition to the prevention methods outlined above, estrogen replacement therapy can help prevent UTIs in older women.

Menopause decreases estrogen levels, which may disrupt the bacterial balance of the vagina. Estrogen treatment, like a low-dose vaginal cream, can help restore this balance.

It’s not only adults who get UTIs. Babies and children can get them, too. Bladder and kidney infections are the most common types of UTIs among children, especially girls.

Teaching the following habits may help prevent UTIs in children:

  • taking bathroom breaks every 2 to 3 hours
  • completely emptying the bladder
  • taking time while peeing
  • teaching girls to wipe from front to back after urinating
  • avoiding tight underwear or clothes
  • avoiding bubble baths
  • staying hydrated

Sometimes, a UTI doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms. If it does, you may have:

  • a strong, constant urge to pee
  • burning while urinating
  • peeing only small amounts of urine
  • cloudy urine
  • bloody urine (red, pink, or cola-colored)
  • smelly urine
  • pelvic pain (in women)

Visit a doctor if you notice these symptoms. They’ll likely do a urine test. If you test positive for a UTI, your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics.

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There are many ways to reduce your risk of getting a UTI. Natural remedies include healthy bathroom habits, urinating before and after sex, and taking probiotics.

Medical methods involve antibiotics or a different form of birth control. Perimenopausal and postmenopausal women may benefit from estrogen therapy, which rebalances vaginal bacteria.

Talk to your doctor about the best ways to prevent a UTI. You can discuss different options and determine what works best for you.

Last medically reviewed on January 20, 2020

5 tips to prevent a urinary tract infection

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A urinary tract infection, also called a UTI, is an infection that occurs in the urinary system. This could include the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys. Most infections involve the bladder and urethra, known as the lower urinary tract.

The most common symptoms include painful urination, tenderness above the bladder area, urgency and frequency of urination. Cloudy and a strong odor are not signs of infection.

Women are at greater risk for a UTI because the urethra is shorter than in men, so it’s easier for bacteria to travel to the bladder. UTIs also are more common in postmenopausal women because low estrogen levels change vaginal and urethral tissue to increase the risk of infection.

It’s always better to prevent an infection rather than simply treat it. UTIs are no different.

Follow these tips to lower your risk of a UTI with little or no potential negative side effects:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
    This helps keep bladder tissue hydrated and healthy. It also dilutes your urine and lowers the concentration of bacteria in the bladder. Some people can clear an infection on their own just by drinking fluids. Try drinking at least 50 ounces, or about 1.5 liters, of fluid daily to prevent infections.
  • Empty your bladder often.
    Regularly emptying your bladder ensures urine is not sitting in your bladder for long periods of time. Since bacteria like warm and wet environments to grow, this takes away good living conditions for the bacteria. It’s normal to empty your bladder four to eight times per day.
  • Urinate soon after sex.
    The act of intercourse can cause bacteria to get close to or into the urethra, the small tube that empties your bladder. Voiding after intercourse removes some of the bacteria before it can cause an infection.
  • Take cranberry supplements.
    While cranberry supplements have not been shown in studies to prevent urinary tract infections, there is a reasonable biologic mechanism that using them could be helpful. If you would like to try this option, consider a concentrated over-the-counter cranberry supplement instead of cranberry juice. It likely provides more benefit and reduces extra sugar typically found in juice.
  • Wipe front to back.
    Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.

If you have two or more infections in six months, consider talking with your health care team about recurrent UTIs. Your health care team will review your medical history and medications, and complete a thorough physical exam.

Risk factors for recurrent UTIs include:

  • Frequent sexual intercourse, which increases the likelihood of bacteria entering the urethra and bladder.
  • Using spermicide with or without a diaphragm, as this can harm protective bacteria in the urinary tract that defend against infection.
  • Urinary retention or incomplete bladder emptying caused by medications; narrowing of the urethra; prolapse of the bladder, uterus or vagina; neurological conditions; or sometimes unknown reasons.
  • Vaginal atrophy, which is a postmenopausal condition caused by decreased estrogen levels.
  • Genetics, especially the inherited genes that regulate the body’s immune response to infections.

It’s common for some people to have bacteria in their urine but not experience any symptoms. In these cases, no treatment is necessary.

Talk with your health care team if you think you have a UTI. You may need an appointment to discuss your symptoms and collect a urine sample.

You should seek medical attention if you develop a fever, chills, disorientation, or back or side pain. These could be signs of a kidney infection, which requires treatment, or a systemic infection of the bloodstream that requires hospitalization.

Sarah Suarez is a physician assistant in OB-GYN in La Crosse and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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