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1 year ago
How to Prevent a UTI


Bad news for chronic UTI sufferers: Urinary tract infections are becoming harder to treat with antibiotics, according to new research from Extending The Cure (ETC), a project of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy.

The study authors collected lab samples and prescription data from around the country in order to pinpoint where in the United States the antibiotic-resistant strains of UTIs were most common. The data showed that from 1999 to 2010, antibiotic resistance in the bacteria that causes UTIs increased by about 30 percent throughout the country. The states of West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana had the highest levels of antibiotic overuse, which leads to the development of resistant strains.

Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics through evolution, says Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, Associate Director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellowship Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. When bacteria evolve and become resistant, doctors prescribe stronger drugs—and the cycle continues, eventually leading to a point where the bacteria become completely resistant to any medication. “The study suggests that because of resistance, we are going to have to start using stronger antibiotics to treat UTIs,” Gyamfi-Bannerman says. “We only have so many stronger antibiotics, which is why resistance is a problem.”

Want to slow the rate of antibiotic resistant bacteria? Only take the meds when absolutely necessary, says Gyamfi-Bannerman. With UTIs, antibiotics are always required—if left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and become potentially deadly. However, with viruses (like a common cold), it’s imperative not to take antibiotics—they won’t be effective, anyway.

That being said, the single most important thing you can do to slow the resistance cycle is to prevent urinary tract infections in the first place. Here’s how.

Wipe from front to back According to Gyamfi-Bannerman, this simple bathroom tip it is the single most important preventative measure you can take to protect yourself from UTIs. “If you wipe from back to front, the bacteria in the rectum and vagina can potentially go towards the opening of the bladder,” she says. E. coli, which is found in the rectum, is the most common cause of UTIs, so front-to-back wiping is an easy way to keep e. coli out.

Pee after sex Because the urethral opening is so close to the vagina and rectum, bacteria from those areas can easily transfer during sex, Gyamfi-Bannerman says. Some physicians recommend urinating after sex to help flush out this bacteria. Don’t pee before, though, if you can avoid it—the more urine you have in your bladder after sex, the more force you can use to flush the bacteria out.

Shower before sex Shower before sex, if you get a chance—this helps clean the area, so that you’ll be exposed to less bacteria overall when you get naked with your partner.

Avoid feminine “hygiene” products Beware of aggressive cleaning of the vagina or hygiene products meant for internal use. “Anything that can enter into the vagina can change the flora,” Gyamfi-Bannerman says. That’s a problem, because the standard vaginal flora can provide a level of protection against harmful bugs, even if UTIs don’t actually occur in the vagina itself, she says.

Guzzle water You already know that drinking water every day helps keep your body healthy, but many doctors suggest that staying hydrated can also help you avoid UTIs. Gyamfi-Bannerman says this is because water keeps you peeing, which means you consistently clean the area and flush out bacteria. Additionally, urinate as soon as you have an urge to go—“holding it” gives the bacteria an opportunity to flourish.

photo: Stockbyte/Thinkstock
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