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Today's Family Magazine

Advice for moms: Preventing urinary tract infections

By Laura Reed-McClain

As moms we spend so much time focusing on our daily responsibilities and other family members’ health that we often overlook ourselves and the signs of a urinary tract infection, a common – sometimes painful – condition that can lead to a more serious kidney infection if left untreated.

Known as UTI, it’s an infection that can occur anywhere in the urinary system, including the kidney, urethra, ureters and bladder. The most common is an infection that causes the bladder lining to become inflamed.

Almost half of all women will experience a UTI in their lifetime with a third experiencing one by their mid 20s. Recurrent infections (a couple a year) often develop among those who have issues.

Sometimes females do not experience early symptoms, but some common signs include needing to urinate urgently or frequently, pain or burning when urinating, feeling the need to go despite having an empty bladder, cloudy or bloody urine that often smells foul and pressure or cramping in the pelvic area.

More serious symptoms like a fever, chills, lower back pain, nausea or vomiting may indicate a kidney infection that could require hospitalization.

For most patients, primary care providers are able to diagnose UTIs quickly and easily. At MinuteClinic, we administer a dipstick test on a clean urine sample and obtain immediate results. If the test is positive for UTI, we’ll prescribe an antibiotic that often clears up the infection in two to three days but may require a longer course of treatment and take up to two weeks depending on the severity of the condition.

Some patients will try and treat the condition on their own with an over the counter analgesic for UTIs that numbs the pain. But these medicines should never be a substitute for seeing a medical provider and being tested as they merely mask the pain. Ultimately, the infection will come on stronger and take longer to treat.

Drinking large amounts of cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements is often perceived as a home remedy for UTI. While cranberries have an active ingredient that can be helpful in preventing bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, they are not effective for flushing out the infection once bacteria is present in the bladder.

Fortunately, there are a number of other measures that can go a long way to preventing UTIs from developing.

Bathroom hygiene is one of the primary ways. Always wipe front to back. Doing the opposite brings bacteria from the rectum area forward to the urethra. Thongs also have a tendency to transfer fecal bacteria to the vagina. Wearing more traditional underwear may help if you are prone to UTIs.

Taking showers instead of baths, urinating after intercourse and staying hydrated are some other ways to lower the risk of spreading bacteria that can lead to UTIs.

By following these steps and seeking care if you think something is “off” with your urinary system, you help prevent days of discomfort and more serious conditions from developing.

Laura Reed-McClain is the mother of two boys (ages 11 and 23) and a nurse practitioner at MinuteClinic inside the CVS Pharmacy store in Chardon.