Ask the Expert: Preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs)

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(KUTV) A urinary tract infection (UTI) is when there is an infection in your urinary system – kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. UTIs are more common in women than in men and cause burning, pain, frequency, urgency, and a lot of discomfort.

Mary Harris, NP at the Intermountain Urological Institute at Intermountain Medical Center says there are a few steps you can take to help prevent a UTI.

Step one, hygiene.

“The first thing is hygiene. It seems very obvious but a lot of women aren’t cleansing properly,” says Harris.

To prevent bacteria from spreading, Harris recommends always wiping from front to back with non-irritative wipes. She also recommends using the restroom both before and after any sexual activity to get rid of possible bacteria.

Step two, stay hydrated.

“Hydrating with water is the best thing to do ad a simple test to see if you’re hydrated is just to look at the color of your urine. If it’s pale yellow, then you know you’re hydrated. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more water,” says Harris.

Step three, empty your bladder frequently and fully.

This means paying attention to your position on the toilet. Harris teaches her patients to open the knees, lean forward, and rest your elbows on your knees. This position positions the urethra towards the toilet so the bladder can adequately empty.

Step four, take cranberry supplements.

If you have recurrent infections, cranberry supplements can help change the character of the urine to prevent infection.

“I avoid telling patients to drink juice because juice has a lot of sugar and you can’t get enough of the cranberry concentrate to make a difference,” says Harris.

Step five, avoid certain feminine products.

Avoid perfumed and/or colored soaps, lotions, cleansers, and lubricants. Instead, use unscented soaps. Another thing to stay away from are bathbombs.

Step six, change your birth control method.

Diaphragms, unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.

Step seven, postmenopausal cream.

If you are postmenopausal ask your provider if a topical estrogen cream might be able to help.

If you have symptoms of an infection, you want to see your provider within 1-2 days.

“If you delay treatment of an infection it can spread to the kidneys, and that can be a serious medical issue and potentially life threatening if left untreated,” says Harris.

When you go into the office they will do a simple urine test to determine whether or not the urine is infected. They will also send that urine sample to the lab and grow a culture. Based on those two tests they can then treat the urine infection with antibiotics.