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Questions and Answers

What’s a UTI? How Do I Know If I Have One?

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A Urinary Tract Infection, or a UTI, is a type of infection in the bladder or urethra. They’re also called bladder infections or cystitis. They’re very common, especially for people with vaginas. Antibiotics are the most common treatment for UTIs. UTIs can be painful and some people get them frequently. Luckily, there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of getting a UTI.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

A Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI, is a common bacterial infection in the bladder or urethra. the urethra is the path that connects the bladder to the hole where you pee.

Signs and symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • Feeling like you have to pee often but only being able to squeeze out a few drops
  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • Blood and/or strong smell in the pee
  • Soreness, cramping, or a feeling of fullness in your bladder, stomach, lower back, or sides

When UTIs spread or get serious, people may feel nauseous, start vomiting, or get a fever or chills. If you ever get these more serious symptoms, it’s recommended to go to an urgent care clinic or emergency room as soon as possible.

Are UTIs a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?

UTIs aren’t considered a sexually transmitted infection, since they aren’t passed from one person to another during sex. But, they’re often associated with sex since vaginal sex and mutual masturbation can increase the risk of getting one.

During vaginal sex, a penis, finger, or sex toy can push bacteria into the urethra. The bacteria can then get into the bladder, causing a UTI. That’s why peeing after vaginal sex or fingering can prevent UTIs by helping to wash away the bacteria.

UTIs are more common for people with vaginas, but anyone can get one. People with vaginas have shorter urethras than people who have penises. This means it’s more likely for bacteria to get to the bladder and cause an infection.

I think I have a UTI, what now?

If you think you have a UTI, you can know for sure by going to a CLSC or drop-in clinic. A doctor can determine whether you have a UTI by taking a urine sample and running other tests. The doctor may also recommend STI tests to make sure they’re certain what kind of infection you have.

The most common treatment for UTIs is taking antibiotics. Remember to take all the pills your doctor prescribes to you, even after you start to feel better!

Head and Hands offers an anonymous drop-in clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays for anyone between the ages of 12-25. You can also call 8-1-1 and speak to a nurse who can answer some questions over the phone and direct you to the closest CLSC with either drop-in hours or appointments available.

How can I prevent UTIs in the future?

Some people are prone to UTIs and get them often. Luckily, there are things you can do to help reduce the risk of frequent UTIs!

  • Drink lots of water!
  • Pee often. Peeing before and after any sexual activity can help to flush any bacteria out of your system.
  • Eat and rest well. Your body needs time and energy to fight off infections!
  • If you use lube, it might be worth checking out the ingredients list. Ingredients such as glycerin or paraben can be irritating to sensitive skin. If you aren’t sensitive to lube, it can help prevent UTIs by reducing friction.
  • Use condoms, gloves, and dental dams when having sex. Use new condoms, gloves, and dental dams when switching from anal sex to vaginal sex.
  • Wash your hands, sex toys, and anything else that might come into contact with the urethra.
  • Drink cranberry juice regularly to prevent UTIs. But, cranberry juice or supplements don’t work when someone already has a UTI. Studies show their value is only as preventative medicine.
  • If you have a vagina, wipe from the from (your vulva) to the back (your anus) after you pee, not back to front.

See the resources below for more on UTIs, treatment, and prevention!

More info:

  • I think I have a UTI: what should I do? – Scarleteen

    Article which addresses urinary tract infections and what to do if you have one.

  • Recurring UTIs – Ask Alice

    Ask Alice answers a question about preventing UTIs when they re-occur often, including possible causes and ways to help prevent them in the future.

  • Seeking medical care for a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – Scarleteen

    Scarleteen article discussing what to do if you think you have a UTI. 

  • UTI prevention – Scarleteen

    Scarleteen article that talks about Unirnary Tract Infections (UTIs) symptoms and prevention 

  • UTIs – Teen Health Source

    Overview of information regarding UTIs. What is a UTI? How do you know if you have one? What can you do to treat a UTI?

    Teen Health Source is brought to you by Planned Parenthood Toronto. Teen Health Source is a sexual health information service run for and by youth. Whether teens need information about birth control, sexually transmitted infections, healthy relationships, or puberty, they provide information in a non-judgmental, sex-positive, pro-choice, and inclusive manner.