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How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection

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Urinary tract infections are unpleasant for anyone to experience. These infections occur when a bacterium, such as E.coli enters the individual’s urethra, from which it can travel to the bladder. Once in the bladder, the infection can spread to the kidneys.

Making certain lifestyle changes can help prevent the occurrence (or recurrence) of a urinary tract infection.

Some of these preventive tips are especially for women, who have a 50 percent lifetime greater risk of a urinary tract infection compared to men, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.


Good genital hygiene can help reduce the risk of an individual developing a urinary tract infection. After using the bathroom, individuals should wipe front to back. By wiping back to front, bacteria around the anal area can access the urethra with greater ease.

Keeping the genital area clean before and after sexual activity can also help prevent urinary tract infection. Individuals should clean this area before they engage in sexual intercourse and afterwards.

In addition, the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommended urination after sexual intercourse to expel any bacteria that may have entered the urethra. Consuming a glass of water afterwards may also help flush out any bacteria.

Women should be careful what products come in contact with their genital region. For example, using sanitary pads over tampons may help reduce an individual’s risk.

MedlinePlus explained that some doctors believe using a tampon instead makes a urinary tract infection more likely to occur. Every time a woman uses the bathroom, she should change her sanitary pad.

Women should also avoid feminine hygiene products that contain perfumes and bath oils.


An individual’s diet can affect her likelihood of developing a urinary tract infection. For example, drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, can help prevent an infection from occurring.

Water not only dilutes the urine, but it encourages more frequent urination. MedlinePlus recommended between two and four quarts each day.

However, individuals who have kidney failure should not drink this much fluid and should consult their health care provider.

Another liquid that individuals can drink to prevent urinary tract infections is cranberry juice. However, not everyone can consume cranberry juice.

MedlinePlus noted that people who have either a personal history or family history of kidney stones should not drink cranberry juice. The MayoClinic.com added that cranberry juice can interact with warfarin, resulting in bleeding, and should be avoided by individuals on the medication.

While some liquids can be beneficial in preventing infection, others may exacerbate it. Therefore, individuals should try to avoid beverages that irritate the bladder and may worsen a urinary tract infection. Examples include beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, and alcohol.


Wearing certain types of clothing may help reduce the risk of a urinary tract infection. Clothing such as nylon underwear and tight-fitting jeans can trap moisture, which can help the bacteria to grow.

Instead, individuals should wear clothing in which air can reach the area around the urethra, thus keeping it dry. Examples include loose fitting clothing and cotton underwear and pantyhose. Individuals should change their underwear and pantyhose at least once a day.

Birth Control

Certain types of birth control, such as spermicide and diaphragms, can increase bacteria growth. Other types of birth control, such as condoms with spermicide or unlubricated condoms, can cause irritation, which may result in bacteria growth, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.

Women using these types of birth control should switch to another type.


MayoClinic.com. Urinary Tract Infection: Alternative Medicine. Web. 6 June 2012

MayoClinic.com. Urinary Tract Infection: Prevention. Web. 6 June 2012

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Urinary Tract Infection – Adults. Web. 6 June 2012

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Urinary Tract Infections in Adults. Web. 6 June 2012

Reviewed June 6, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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