UTIs are surprisingly common. Up to 40% of women and 12% of men will develop a urinary tract infection at some point in their lifetime. However, despite UTIs being so prevalent (especially amongst students), there isn’t much information surrounding them, so many people are misinformed about what UTIs are, and how to avoid them.
A urinary tract infection is any sort of infection in the urinary system, i.e the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. They affect women more than men due to women having a shorter urethra, making it easier for bacteria to travel. It’s important to treat a UTI early due to the risk of kidney damage.
UTIs are caused by bacteria and other microbes getting into your urinary tract and causing an infection. Some ways for microbes to enter the urethra include sexual activity, improper hygiene habits (such as wiping back to front), not urinating when you need to and certain medical problems such as kidney stones or having an STD such as chlamydia.
There is no missing a UTI. Once you have one, you will know about it, and from my experience they are pretty miserable. The most common symptoms include pain during urination, a strong urge to urinate frequently and changes in the colour or smell of your urine. Some other, less common symptoms include nausea, back pain and fatigue. My UTI manifested itself in the most inconvenient way: personally, I realised that I was suffering from one when I had to stop a Wexford Bus to pee on the side of the motorway (losing my phone in the process).
In order to treat a UTI, you should see a GP who will prescribe a course of antibiotics. Surprisingly, evidence suggests that cranberry juice may actually work to prevent recurrent UTIs. Other old wives’ remedies include drinking baking soda with water, apple cider vinegar and taking D-Mannose. However, a licensed medical professional should always be consulted before taking anything unprescribed. UTIs are a complete pain to deal with, so make sure to look after yourself by drinking fluids, getting plenty of rest, going to the bathroom often and taking pain relief, such as ibuprofen, if needed.
The best way to avoid a UTI is handwashing before sexual activity and peeing after sex. I seriously cannot stress how important peeing after sex is. Always. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s to pee after sex. Being kind to your body is a good way to avoid a UTI. Wear breathable underwear rather than thongs, and avoid any products that can cause irritation, such as douches and fragrances. Good hygiene habits such as being generally clean and wiping front to back are extremely important as well. Drinking plenty of water is a good way to flush out any bacteria.
“If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s to pee after sex”
People who suffer from UTIs are not dirty or unclean. It is extremely easy to get a UTI and it is not a sexually transmitted disease. While you can get a UTI from sexual activity, it is not contagious nor sexually transmitted. They are something many of us will go through at some stage, so you really should not feel embarrassed or ashamed about having a UTI. It is just really important to know the signs so that it can be managed and treated quickly. And for the love of God, please pee after sex.