Ever had a UTI? You’d know about it if so – the symptoms include a burning, stinging sensation when you wee, feeling like you need to go frequently and urgently (even if you just went), pelvic pain and blood in the urine. It’s also really common – one in two women will experience a UTI in their lifetimes. The good news? It’s easily and quickly treated. Here’s what you need to know…

What causes a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is caused by micro bacteria (usually from the anus) travelling to the urethra into the bladder, where it doesn’t belong. Sexually active women are most vulnerable – because the female urethra is only 4cm long, bacteria doesn’t have long to go to cause trouble.

Can I catch one from using public toilets?
Nope, it’s an urban myth. But you should always take care when wiping (front to back only) to avoid infecting yourself.

I’ve got that familiar burning sensation… what now?
“You should see your doctor if you have any signs of a UTI,” says Sydney GP Jane Hunt. “If the kidneys are involved, there can also be fever, lower back pain, nausea and vomiting.” Kidney infections can be pretty serious, so you need to get on top of it ASAP. “Your doctor will assess whether your symptoms are consistent with a UTI or something else, and will test your wee, prescribe antibiotics and provide something to ease the symptoms,” Dr Hunt adds. Drinking lots of water will help flush the bladder and prevent the infection reaching your kidneys. “Add Ural sachets (from your local pharmacy) to your drinking water three to four times a day to quickly stop the stinging – it neutralises the acid urine,” suggests WF’s resident GP, Dr Claudia Lee.

Isn’t cranberry juice meant to be good?
If you’ve heard that you should load up on cranberry juice when a UTI hits, here’s why: cranberry contains a substance that can stop bacteria sticking to the urinary tract lining. The research into cranberry isn’t conclusive, but an unsweetened juice or supplement may be worth a try.

How do I prevent it?
There are a few steps you can take to avoid getting stung by a repeat UTI. “Make it a practice to pass urine after sex before falling asleep to clear away any bacterial build-up that could potentially cause infection,” says Dr Lee. You should also avoid using spermicides for contraception, Dr Hunt adds, and try to drink more fluids. If you’ve experienced several UTIs, chat to your doctor about ongoing treatment.

This story appeared in the May issue of Women’s Fitness.

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