Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

The Burning Question: To Pee or Not To Pee

Written by Kristine Cummings and Anna Salajegheh
Active Image The first and only time I ever got a Urinary Tract Infection (more commonly known as an UTI) was a summer that I made friends with someone who had a hot tub…which I loved and spent way too much time in. I should have known better. For as long as I can remember, my mother has warned me about this certain infection. Never go in a pool or bath that doesn’t look clean. Even if they are clean, it is a good idea to have a glass of cranberry juice after to prevent an UTI. Stay hydrated and urinate every two to three hours. But did I listen? Nooooo. It was her problem; it would never happen to me.
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 Photo by Jonathan Ratcliff
 
The first and only time I ever got a Urinary Tract Infection (more commonly known as a UTI) was a summer {mosimage width=400}that I made friends with someone who had a hot tub…which I loved and spent way too much time in. I should have known better. For as long as I can remember, my mother has warned me about this certain infection. Never go in a pool or bath that doesn’t look clean. Even if you go in one that is clean, it is a good idea to have a glass of cranberry juice after to prevent a UTI. Stay hydrated and urinate every two to three hours. But did I listen? Nooooo. It was her problem; it would never happen to me.

Well sure enough, after yet another day that ended with a pile of people in the hot tub, I woke up in the middle of the night with a burning pain and the need to use the bathroom. I tried to go but nothing came out. I knew right away what it was and got myself to the doctor the very next morning.

For some reason I felt embarrassed and ashamed to tell my doctor what happened and the reasons why the infection occurred. But, turns out UTIs are extremely common. Why, however, is this?
 
Imagine that the urinary tract is one long tube from your kidney into your urethra. The kidney’s job is extremely complex, but if we must simplify it, it filters blood and keeps a tab of the materials that should be in there and those that should not be. The waste it makes comes out in the form of urine from your urethra. This urine passes from the kidneys, into the ureters. From the ureters, urine is stored in the bladder where you control when to release it from your urethra.

A woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s. Also, it is close to the vagina and anus, and there are all types of bacteria nearby that can easily climb into the urethra and infect the lining of the urethra, bladder, or (even further up in the body) the ureters or kidney.  Bacteria, like E. coli (which you may have heard of), live in your digestive tract. Other bacteria can also cause infection, but E. coli is the most common. These can escape, and when they enter the urinary tract and multiply, an infection can occur. Normally, the rush of urine through the urethra flushes the bacteria out. However, there are certain situations in which either there is too much bacteria for the “flush” to work or there is not enough flushing of the bacteria that are around.

Things that increase your risk of getting a UTI include: having sexual intercourse, having recently taken antibiotics, and spermicides.

The symptoms of UTIs vary from woman to woman, but typically there is:
1.    Burning with urination
2.    Feeling like you have to go really, really badly all of the time (this is known as urgency)
3.    Peeing many more times than you do normally
4.    Pain just above your pubic bone
5.    Blood in your urine

If you are feverish, are vomiting, and have diarrhea along with the above symptoms, be sure to call a doctor immediately. These symptoms indicate that the infection is much more serious as it has climbed up beyond your bladder to infect your kidneys.

To prevent a UTI you can:
1.    Always pee after sex. Always. Remember the flush rule? If you don’t, here it is again. Urinating flushes
       the bacteria out of your system. Because sex can introduce bacteria into the urinary tract, it is important to
       flush those critters out.
2.    Also, try not to use spermicides, if you can help it. If you get UTIs frequently, try to cut back on condoms,      
       diaphragms, or cervical caps with spermicide.
3.    Keep well hydrated. This will make you pee more and brings us once again to the flush rule.

Once you have a UTI, the treatment is to get antibiotics from your doctor. When you get the antibiotics, make sure you take them exactly as prescribed. Your symptoms should improve pretty quickly (like in a day or so). If they don’t, be sure to call your doctor.  Some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics and may make you sicker if you don’t get on the right antibiotic. Unfortunately, bacteria can’t speak, so it is important for you to be aware of your symptoms and communicate with your doctor.

From now on, I follow the advice of my doctor and mom. I think twice before getting into a jacuzzi or bathtub if it isn’t my own and don’t know when it was last cleaned. It’s important to stay hygienic, hydrated, and healthy. In addition, I found the cranberry juice effective. There are even pills that you can take as a supplement if you don’t care for the taste. The main thing is to watch and take care of yourself. It’s easy to prevent and I wish I didn’t take light of the advice from others.

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