How to avoid Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)


Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are a relatively common but unpleasant problem which affects the bladder and/or kidneys. Symptoms may include; changes in bladder habits, burning pain with urination, back or tummy pain, urinary urgency, incontinence, a high fever and even delirium if left untreated.

Not all infections are easy to detect and some people may feel only mildly unwell or have unexplained changes to their bladder habits. Carers of people who cannot communicate clearly often report that the only outward indication of a UTI may be strong smelling urine or a change in mood or behaviour.

Women and the elderly have a slightly higher risk of UTI:

Most urinary infections are caused by a bacteria that has made its way into the bladder via the urethra or via continence aids such as a catheter. This requires direct contact between the entrance to the bladder and the bacteria. Bad smells and public toilet seats are not to blame because they do not make contact with that part of the body.

 UTI is more likely caused by:

  1. Poor wiping techniques after toileting. It is important that your patient wipes from front to back, particularly after a bowel action. Bacteria that belong in the bowel can cause problems if they get into the urethra and bladder.
  2. Bacteria on hands or other surfaces making contact with the urethra or continence aids. Make sure you know the correct clean techniques for using catheters and use single use catheters where possible. Ensure your hands are washed well and wear gloves for intimate care with your patient.
  3. Broken, wet and fragile skin is more susceptible to infection – Good skin care and appropriate use of continence aids can ensure skin is healthy and more resistant to infection. Powders and harsh soaps should not be used on intimate areas.
  4. Poor fluid intake. A good flow of urine can wash away any stray bacteria that may be in or near the urethra, therefore preventing an infection. Drinking about 1500ml of fluid a day ensures a good amount of urine.
  5. Not emptying the bladder fully. If your patient hovers instead of sitting properly on the toilet, some urine stays inside the bladder which encourages stray bacteria to multiply rather than being flushed out. Other causes of incomplete emptying include constipation and prostate enlargement.

Symptomatic UTI's are usually treated as soon as possible. Your doctor or nurse may ask your patient for a urine sample to ensure that their medication will work for their particular infection. 

Prevent UTI with a few simple steps such as:

Correct wiping techniques, Clean hands, Good skin care, Drinking well and Emptying your bladder well

This artcile is based on the Water For Wellbeing fact sheet on Urniary Tract Infections 


Note: Healthcare professionals should be your patient’s first point of contact. Ensure they always follow their doctor’s instructions.