Swimming & urinary tract infections

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If you're experiencing a painful, unpleasant Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), it's possible that your day at the pool had something to do with it. UTIs occur when bacteria passes through the urethra and travels up into the bladder or kidneys to multiply in the urinary tract.

In 2007, researchers at Yale University found that the upstream swimming of bacteria may actually transport E. coli into the urinary tract, resulting in infection. That means anything that exposes you to bacteria down there has the potential to lead to this uncomfortable infection. If you're not careful with your swimming routine, an unwanted UTI could soon follow.


If you spend a lot of time in a swimming pool, lake or ocean, bacteria in the water can collect in your swimsuit and begin to travel through your urethra, where they can multiply and thrive. Many swimsuits are made from fabrics that create a moist environment where bacteria can easily grow and thrive, especially during the warm summer months.


Many people who experience a UTI notice pain and discomfort in the urinary tract, a frequent need to urinate, a foul smell in the urine, blood or pus in the urine, fever or a burning sensation while urinating.


The good news is that you don't have to quit swimming for good. Simply towel drying won't work, but if you can take away the warm and moist environment bacteria like to grow in, you'll have taken a huge step to protect yourself. To do so, make sure that you rinse off in a shower and change into a dry swimsuit after you get out of the water. To help prevent UTIs and maintain a healthy urinary tract, drink plenty of fluids, including unsweetened cranberry juice, which can help flush out bacteria in the urinary tract.


If you're experiencing symptoms of a UTI, go to your health-care provider immediately. Your doctor will likely have a urine culture examined and if she detects an overgrowth of bacteria in your urine, she will likely prescribe you an oral antibiotic. She may also provide you with urinary-tract-pain relieving pills to help you deal with the symptoms.


Just because you've been in a pool doesn't mean that was the primary cause of your UTI. UTIs can happen to anyone who is sexually active, pregnant women, men with prostate disease, and anyone who suffers from other allergic or topical reactions. Regardless of the cause, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends seeking treatment as early as possible to ensure that the infection does not spread to the kidneys, which can lead to dangerous complications.