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10 Ways to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections

How to Reduce Your Risk of UTI

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Updated April 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Nine million doctor's office visits each year are due to urinary tract infections, or UTIs. The only thing patients visit the doctor for more often are respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. Unfortunately, the majority of cases of UTI occur in women.

What can you do to help prevent urinary tract infections from interfering with your life? According to the National Institutes of Health, health professionals recommend the following tips to reduce your risk of developing a UTI.

  1. Water helps flush your urinary tract, so make sure you drink plenty of plain water daily.
    More: You Are What You Drink
  2. 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.
  3. You've probably heard that you should wipe from front to back after a bowl movement. This is especially important to help prevent bacteria from the anus from entering the vagina or urethra.
  4. Taking showers instead of baths helps prevent bacteria from entering the urethra and causing a UTI.
  5. Always wash your genital area both before and after sexual intercourse to help prevent transferring bacteria to the urethra or vaginal area, which can create a breeding ground for a UTI.
    More: Personal Hygiene and UTI
  6. Feminine hygiene sprays and douches, particularly scented douches, can irritate the urethra and possibly lead to a UTI. Avoiding these products will help prevent not only urinary tract infections, but also other infections and irritations that these products may cause.
    More: The Douche Debate
  7. Drinking cranberry juice is a fairly well-known and natural way to both help prevent urinary tract infections, as well as help speed the recovery process when a UTI develops. Just drinking two 4-ounce glasses of cranberry juice daily is often enough to both prevent a UTI and speed recovery when an infection does develop.
  8. Another nutritional route that may help prevent UTI is regularly taking vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C increases the acidity level of urine, which in turn helps decrease the number of harmful bacteria that may be present in your urinary tract system.
  9. 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.
  10. If you are one of a large number of women who suffers from frequent, recurrent urinary tract infections, a change in your position during sexual intercourse may help reduce the number of UTIs that you experience. Changing sexual positions may reduce friction on your urethra and reduce your risk of recurrent UTI. Women who suffer from extremely frequent urinary tract infections may be prescribed an antibiotic to take immediately after sex to help prevent the likelihood of urinary tract infection occurrence.

Source:

Urinary Tract Infections. NIH.gov. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/urinary_tract_infections.cfm. Accessed 08/21/2009.

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