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Sep 07 2016
by Alexa Marzina

UTIs: The College Student's Guide

By Alexa Marzina - Sep 07 2016
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A UTI is a urinary tract infection. Statistically, women are more likely to contract UTIs than men; in fact, the chance of any given woman getting at least one in her lifetime is 1 in 2, though men can also experience one or more UTIs in a lifetime. The reason that UTIs are especially common in women is the exact reason we are taught since potty-training age to wipe from front to back after using the toilet: feces from the anus can contain nasty bacteria (like E. coli!) that you obviously do not want back in your body. The specific cause of a UTI is bacteria (not the good kind) entering the urethra and infecting it trough various means, including from the anus, neglecting proper washing and that acquired through sexual contact. Women also have shorter urethras than men, which allow the bacteria to travel to the bladder much quicker, making infection easier.

Symptoms

UTIs can be relatively easy to self-diagnose. The most common symptom of a UTI is feeling a constant and urgent need to pee, though little comes out when you relieve yourself. This can also be accompanied by: burning while urinating, cloudy/foul smelling urine and pelvic pain.

Treatments

UTIs can be pretty simple to treat, as mild ones are usually able to flush themselves within a few days. Drinking a lot of water is crucial to “curing” the infection, as water is what is able to carry the bacteria out, plus it’ll feel great to actually be able to pee when you need to! A lot of home remedies or treatments revolve around drinking a liquid (usually water) mixed with some type of other bacteria fighting/immune system boosting food, because getting fluid through your body is so important to the treatment of UTIs. Here is a list of home remedies that you can try to hopefully rid yourself of the bacteria that’s causing you pain and/or at least alleviate you from some discomfort.

You may have previously heard of using cranberry juice to treat UTIs. Recently, medical experts have been questioning the usefulness of this drink to actually prevent or treat infections and have come to inconclusive results. The general verdict is that drinking cranberry juice doesn’t treat the infection as much as once thought, but still may have benefits for some people. Basically, cranberry juice won’t magically cure your UTI, but it certainly won’t hurt you (so long as you opt for real juice and not juice cocktail that’s loaded with sugar).

When to be Concerned

As previously stated, most UTIs can work themselves out in a few days without affecting your health (save for slight discomfort). However, more intense UTIs can progress to more serious infections which should most definitely be treated by a doctor. If you experience blood in the urine, back pain (toward the kidney areas), nausea/vomiting, chills or high fever, you should see a doctor (or maybe even go to the hospital) ASAP. These are symptoms of a kidney infection, which, if untreated, can spread to your blood and cause serious illness. If noticed early enough, any doctor can prescribe you antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria, and you should be fine within the week. More serious cases, or those not treated immediately, however, may require hospitalization (and antibiotics straight into your body through an IV).

Don’t let this information scare you, as most UTIs do not progress to kidney infections. But it is good to be educated so you know how to handle more severe cases should they happen, in order to adequately take care of your body.

Getting sick in college can be scary, since you may not have any family within miles to talk you through it, comfort you or take you to a doctor. However, knowing what to do before an illness/infection sets in can be key to managing your health in college - having this information in the back of your mind now can help to treat your next UTI right at the onset. One of the best ways to prevent UTIs is to make sure you’re drinking at least your recommended eight glasses of water per day, keeping up with adequate washing of your genital areas to prevent the spread of bacteria as well as urinating before and after sex. Never be embarrassed of having a UTI - they’re very common, and even if you do everything right, bacteria can still slip its way in. Just relax, drink lots of (clear) fluids and see a doctor when necessary. Your body will thank you.

Lead Image Credit: freestocks.org via Unsplash

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Alexa Marzina - University of Pittsburgh

Alexa is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh and is majoring in psychology, minoring in creative writing and pursuing a certificate in American Sign Language. She also plays clarinet in the University of Pittsburgh Varsity Marching Band. One day, Alexa hopes to own at least three corgis. Follow her on Twitter @alexa_lou and Instagram @_alexalou

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