What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection is an infection of the bladder
. It's also called a UTI or a bladder infection. Urine is made by the kidneys
and stored in the bladder until you pee it out. Bacteria can get into the bladder and cause an infection. Bladder infections are very common in girls and women. One in 20 girls will have at least one bladder infection before the age of 18. back to top
How do you get a urinary tract infection?
is connected to the outside by the urethra
, which opens in front of the vagina
. Bacteria can climb up the urethra into the bladder and cause an infection. There are several reasons why urinary tract infections are much more common in girls than in boys:
How do I know if I have a urinary tract infection?
- The urethra is shorter.
- Sexual intercourse can push bacteria into the urethra.
- Douching can push bacteria into the urethra.
- A diaphragm can press on the urethra and trap bacteria. back to top
The most common symptom of a urinary tract infection is burning pain when you pee. You may also feel like you need to pee very often, even if only a little pee is in your bladder. You may feel like you have to pee very urgently, or like it's hard to start to pee even when you really need to go. Some girls also might notice pink pee, or pee that looks like it has blood in it. back to top
What should I do if I think I have a urinary tract infection?
Make an appointment with your health professional. He or she can tell you if you have a urinary tract infection after doing two simple tests. For these tests, you will need to give a sample of your urine or pee. The medical assistant at the doctor's office will give you a clean, sterile cup and instruct you to wash your genital area with a special wipe. This wipe looks like a moist towelette, but it doesn't contain alcohol and doesn't sting. Then you pee in the cup and give it to your health professional to send to the lab for testing.
At the lab, the technician will look at your pee under a microscope to see if there are any white blood cells
in it. A large number of white blood cells is a sign of infection. The lab will also do a test called a urine culture
to look for bacteria in your pee. If there's a lot of bacteria in your urine, it means you have a urinary tract infection. back to top
How do I get rid of a urinary tract infection?
You can easily cure your urinary tract infection by taking an antibiotic. Your health professional will give you a prescription for the medicine. Make sure you finish all of the medicine or you may not get rid of the infection completely. back to top
What if I have a urinary tract infection, but I don't do anything about it?
It's possible that your urinary tract infection will go away by itself, but that probably won't happen. Most girls are so uncomfortable that they try to get treated right away. An untreated UTI could spread to your kidneys and cause a serious illness. In that case, you would probably get a fever, pain in your lower belly, and back pain (because your kidneys are at the back of your body). back to top
What can I do to prevent another urinary tract infection?
Fortunately, it's not that common to have a lot of urinary tract infections. If you have one urinary tract infection, you probably won't get another one for years. Here are some tips for preventing them:
- Drink cranberry juice. It seems to help prevent urinary tract infections in girls and women who get them a lot.
- If you use a diaphragm, you may find that switching to a different type of birth control will give you fewer infections.
- Always remember to wipe yourself well from front to back after using the toilet. This will prevent germs and bacteria from the back (where your stool or poop comes out) from getting into the front (where they can travel up your urethra and cause an infection).
- Pee often during the day to help flush out any bacteria that has gotten into your bladder or urethra. Don't hold your pee for a long time.
If you have a lot of urinary tract infections, your health professional may prescribe antibiotics to prevent future ones. back to top