Urinary tract infection: Symptoms, prevention and home remedies

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when bacteria infects your kidneys, ureter (the...

A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when bacteria infects your kidneys, ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder), bladder or urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body). The most common symptom is a painful, burning sensation when you urinate. You may also have a frequent urge to go to the bathroom, but you may not produce much urine, which may smell bad or look cloudy.

The best way to guard yourself from a urinary tract infection is to prevent it in the first place. Here are some tips that can help limit your chances of developing a UTI.

Hygienic habits: What you need to know

Avoid douches and feminine sprays or deodorants, which can upset the natural chemistry of your vagina and urethra, lowering your body's defense against bacteria. For undergarments and workout clothes, wear loose-fitting, natural fabrics close to your body; tight-fitting synthetic fabrics can limit airflow and keep sweat and bacteria trapped against your skin.

It's also important to be careful when having sex. For instance, you should urinate before and after--if possible--and clean the area to keep germs from finding their way into the urethra. Additionally, some spermicides may cause irritation that can leave you vulnerable to infection. If you are especially sensitive to these chemicals, use alternate methods.

Most importantly, good habits in the bathroom are essential to preventing infection. If you need to urinate, don't hold it. The longer urine stays in your bladder, the greater your chances of infection. And wipe front to back after bowel movements to avoid sweeping bacteria into your urethra.

Home remedies for everyday prevention

These home remedies can help prevent infection by strengthening your body against a UTI, especially if you're prone to them. Drink six to eight glasses of water a day to keep fluid moving through your urinary tract, flushing out bacteria. A few ounces of cranberry juice or a handful of fresh blueberries every day can also help since both berries have a mild antimicrobial effect. You can even eat garlic, preferably raw. It contains antimicrobial compounds that help fight infection, in addition to providing other health benefits. A little a day can help prevent an infection, and larger doses can help you fight off a stubborn UTI.

If you don't like the taste of some of these foods, you can buy cranberry and garlic supplements. These usually come in stronger doses and may help you if you're worried about frequent UTIs.

As with any health concerns, please visit your local Atlanta-area doctor for diagnosis and treatment. If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics, these remedies can supplement but not replace that treatment. If you suspect a UTI, go to the doctor immediately if your urine turns pink, red or brown. This may indicate that you're passing blood. You should also see your doctor as soon as possible if you are running a high fever or your infection lasts more than two days.

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