10 Ways to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

How to Reduce Your Risk of UTI

Female drinking mineral water.
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What can you do to help prevent urinary tract infections from interfering with your life? Nine million doctor's office visits each year are due to urinary tract infections, or UTIs. Unfortunately, the majority of cases of UTI occur in women.

Health experts at the National Institutes of Health and the Cleveland Clinic recommend the following tips to reduce your risk of developing a UTI:

  1. Drink at Least Six to Eight Glasses of Water a Day: Water helps flush your urinary tract, so make sure you drink plenty of plain water daily. Other fluids can also encourage urination, but those that include caffeine or alcohol can irritate the bladder and are best avoided.
  1. Urinate Frequently: Don't hold it when you need to urinate. Women are often guilty of trying to finish a task before they go to the bathroom. Holding it when you need to go can help any bacteria that may be present develop into a full-fledged urinary tract infection.
  2. Wipe From Front to Back: Practice good hygiene after a bowel movement and always wipe from front to back only, especially if you are a woman. This prevents bacteria from the anus entering the vagina or urethra. Those bacteria, especially E. coli, are frequently the culprits for UTIs.
  3. Urinate and Wash Immediately Before and After Sexual Intercourse: Washing will help prevent transferring bacteria to the urethra or vaginal area during sex. Urinating will flush out bacteria that may be lurking in your bladder before sex or that may have been introduced during sex.
  4. Take Showers Instead of Baths: Showers help prevent bacteria from entering the urethra and causing a UTI, while baths do not.
  1. Don't Douche: Douches can irritate the urethra and possibly lead to a UTI, as well as to vaginal irritation and infection.
  2. Don't Use Feminine Deodorants: These sprays can irritate your genital area and increase your risk of UTI.
  3. Wear Cotton Underwear: Always wear panties with a cotton crotch. Cotton fabric lets moisture escape while other fabrics can trap moisture, creating a potential breeding ground for bacteria. Also, avoid tight-fitting clothing and pantyhose.
  1. Avoid Vaginal Dryness: Use a water-based lubricant when you have sex if you are prone to vaginal dryness. For post-menopausal women, discuss with your doctor the benefits of an estrogen-containing vaginal cream. It can reduce dryness and help reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection.
  2. Help for Women With Recurrent UTI: If you are one of the large number of women who have frequent, recurrent urinary tract infections, changing sexual positions to reduce friction on your urethra many help. Another possibility to discuss with your doctor is taking an antibiotic immediately after sex. If you use a diaphragm, check with your doctor about whether that may be a source of infection.

What About Cranberry Juice or Vitamin C?

Drinking cranberry juice is a popular natural way to help prevent urinary tract infections, but there is mixed evidence from studies as to whether it works. It may help women with recurrent UTIs prevent recurrence, but it doesn't work as well as low-dose antibiotics. Research has shown cranberry juice and cranberry extracts are not effective in treating UTI. Some theorized that vitamin C could help prevent UTIs by acidifying the urine, but this has not been supported by research.

Sources:

Beerepoot MCAB, Geerlings S. Non-Antibiotic Prophylaxis for Urinary Tract Infections. Pathogens. 2016;5(2):36. doi:10.3390/pathogens5020036.

Cranberry. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/cranberry.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/eating-diet-nutrition.

Urinary Tract Infections. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/urinary-tract-infections.

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