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Help! I think I have a UTI

Tuesday 24 April 2018

A woman sits on the toilet, we see her hands clawing her knees in discomfort.
UTIs are uncomfortable to say the least, and need to be seen to by a GP for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Have you got that burning feeling? Is ‘going number one’ suddenly an urgent experience? Have you noticed a change in the colour or odour of your pee?

You might have a urinary tract infection. Find out what UTIs are, how they’re treated and how to prevent them below.

What is a urinary tract infection?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that affect males and females of all ages, though are more common in women. They are caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria, that get into your urinary tract.

UTIs can affect all parts of the urinary tract from the bladder to the kidneys. Kidney infections (pyelonephritis) are quite serious and can cause serious complications.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

Those who have had a urinary tract infection will tell you that they’re not a pleasant experience. Even though they’re common and very treatable, UTIs can be painful and frustrating, especially if they reoccur often.

Symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • pain in your lower back or side
  • pain, stinging or burning when you urinate
  • feeling like you need to urinate more often than normal, but only passing a few drops
  • cloudy urine
  • urine that smells unusual and
  • blood in your urine.

If a UTI has spread to your kidneys you might also experience fever, back pain, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.

A woman sits on the toilet, holding her stomach.

How are urinary tract infections treated?

If you have any symptoms of a UTI, it’s important that you see your GP for correct diagnosis and treatment. Untreated kidney infections can lead to serious complications.

Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection. They may also recommend special drinks you can take to help flush your urinary tract and make urinating more comfortable. They might recommend you take over-the-counter medications to help deal with pain or fever.

UTIs are not contagious, which means you can’t spread them to other people. However the symptoms of a UTI are similar to those caused by sexually transmitted infections. While UTIs aren’t contagious STIs are, so you should talk to your doctor about the cause of your symptoms.

How to prevent UTIs?

While some people are more likely to get UTIs than others because of their anatomy, there are things everyone can do to prevent UTIs.

Drink plenty of fluids (water is always best) throughout the day. This will help flush your urinary tract, stopping bacteria from building up.

Always go to the toilet when you feel the need to urinate – don’t hold on. When it comes to timing, nature knows best!

After going to the toilet to poo or urinate, women and girls should wipe from front to back to make sure no bacteria are pushed from their anus towards their urethra.

Always urinate after having sex to flush out any bacteria that might have been pushed into the urethra. This goes for men and women.

Wear cotton underwear rather than silk, nylon or spandex, and avoid wearing tight fitting clothes that don’t allow your downtown to breathe. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist areas, so wear loose-fitting cotton clothing to avoid setting up their ideal environment.

Only use mild soaps on your genitals. Fragrance-free soaps are best, and should be washed off immediately. Women – you do not need to wash your vagina (it’s self-cleaning so you only need to wash the skin outside) and you should never add artificial scents to this area.  

Looking after yourself by eating a healthy diet, doing plenty of physical activity and getting good quality sleep will help your immune system stay strong and keep bacteria in check.

More information

Urinary tract infections – Health Direct

Urinary tract infections – Mayo Clinic

Last updated: 2 May 2018