Let’s start with busting Myth #1 about urinary tract infections (UTI) — it does not mean you’re dirty. It only means that some bacteria has made its way inside your body. Where it doesn’t belong. Where it’s causing all kinds of trouble. Bacteria is kind of like invisible dirt, but it doesn’t count as being “dirty.” Bacteria is everywhere. Bad news, good news: 50% of women will experience a UTI by the age of 32, and they often start in childhood. The bad news is that high number, but the good news is that UTIs can be prevented and cured, and really important, you’re not alone. Clearly, this is a very common problem. It is also an avoidable one. The best place to start is by understanding how an infection begins.
What is a UTI?
Here’s what it is NOT (busting Myth #2) — a UTI is not contagious. Anyone can get them. Babies. Your dog. Girls. Boys. Your mom. Your daughter. A urinary tract infection develops when bacteria gets inside your urethra, the tube that carries pee from your bladder and out of your body. The bacteria find a place to hang out, like in your bladder or kidneys, where it multiplies and starts to irritate your organs.
How does bacteria get in “there,” you ask?
Time to finally bust the big one, Myth #3 — Moms, sex does not cause urinary tract infections. Please, please do not jump to conclusions about what your daughter is doing. Here are the real answers to this question: Wiping the wrong way. Front to back, ladies. You know this! Anything else and you risk getting little poop particles into your vagina. It’s all downhill from there. Holding your pee ALL. DAY. LONG. Please don’t do this to yourselves. We know our kids are notorious for this, so tell them, too. They are also commonly faced with restrictions to bathroom access at school and at sports practice. All that waste builds up inside you, gets stale, and can lead to infection. Using fancy soaps, bubble baths or hot tubs. The artificial ingredients and chemicals can irritate your skin. Unfortunately, it can enter your body and irritate your insides as well. Wearing clothes that are too tight. Those jeans may look good, but they cause underwear to ride up, which can push bacteria inside.
How do you know you have a UTI?
If you feel any of these symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor:
- Pain that feels like it’s coming from your bladder. This is specific and different from cramps during your period
- A burning sensation, especially when you pee.
- An unusual odor or color to your pee. If you see blood, definitely get to a doctor right away
- Feeling like you have to pee, but not much comes out
- Fever, sometimes feeling tired and shaky
Your doctor will want to test a urine sample to determine the type of bacteria causing your infection. Based on the results, you’ll be prescribed an antibiotic to resolve the issue. After that, prevention is key. In addition to what’s already been listed, drink a lot of fluids, wear cotton underwear, and go to the bathroom regularly and completely. Talk to your doctor if recurrence is an issue. Incontinence can also play a role, so think about what products you use to manage that condition. A switch might be in order. Urinary tract infections are common, but not normal. Jill Grech is Below Your Belt’s Marketing and Community Manager, which is code for blogger and social media monitor. If only she had ever heard of the term “UTI” when she actually developed one, she wouldn’t have rushed to the emergency room convinced she was dying of a ruptured appendix.