Drink plenty of water to avoid UTI’s.
Between the hot summer air that we’re now experiencing in New England, and the cold winter air just past, it is important for people of all ages to remember to stay hydrated every day. But for seniors, it is especially important. Many seniors try to limit the amount of fluids they drink in order to cut down on trips to the bathroom. But t his strategy often leads straight to a urinary tract infection (“UTI”), also known as a bladder infection.
Approximately 40% of women and 12% of men will experience at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime. Women who have gone through menopause lose the protective effects of estrogen, putting them at greater risk for UTIs.
Because we have seen this issue so often with our clients, we would like to offer some some background information, as well as some advice on how to prevent UTI.
What is the urinary tract?
The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system. Every minute, a person’s kidneys filter about 3 ounces of blood, removing wastes and extra water. The wastes and extra water make up the 1 to 2 quarts of urine a person produces each day. The urine is then stored in the bladder, which expands like a balloon as it fills. When the bladder empties, a muscle called the sphincter relaxes and urine flows out of the body through the urethra.
What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?
A UTI is an infection in the urinary tract. Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. However, large numbers of bacteria live in the rectal area and also on your skin. Bacteria may get into the urine from the urethra and travel into the bladder. Normally, bacteria that enter the urinary tract are rapidly flushed out by the body before they cause symptoms. But if urine stays in the bladder too long without being flushed through, any harmful bacteria can grow and overwhelm the body’s immune system.
How Do I Recognize the Symptoms of UTI?
Elderly people with a serious urinary tract infection don’t always exhibit the hallmark sign of fever because their immune systems may be unable to mount a response to infection due to the effects of aging. In fact, elders often don’t exhibit any of the common symptoms – or don’t express them to their caregivers.
UTIs in the elderly are often mistaken as the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, according to NIH, because symptoms include:
• Loss of appetite
• Poor motor skills or dizziness
A sudden change in behavior is, in fact, one of the best indicators of a urinary tract infection in older adults. Anytime that there is a change… if one day they’re able to dress themselves or feed themselves and then there’s a sudden change, a red flag should go up in a caregiver’s mind. Falls, confusion, incontinence in someone who had been getting to the bathroom, decrease in appetite, any of these can be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
How are UTI’s diagnosed?
To diagnose a UTI, the health care provider will test a sample of the patient’s urine for the presence of bacteria and white blood cells, which are produced by the body to fight infection.
How are UTIs treated?
A three-day course of antibiotics will usually treat most UTI’s. Drinking lots of fluids and urinating frequently will speed healing. If needed, various medications are available to relieve the pain of a UTI. Placing a heating pad on the back or abdomen may also help.
How can recurrent UTIs be prevented?
You should urinate often and when the urge arises. Bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder for too long. Drinking water will help to flush bacteria away. After using the toilet, women should wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from getting into the urethra.
Cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes should be worn, so air can keep the area around the urethra dry. Tight-fitting slacks and nylon underwear should be avoided because they can trap moisture and help bacteria grow.
Eating, Diet, and Nutrition
Drinking lots of fluids can help flush bacteria from the system. Drink when you’re thirsty, but most people should try to have six to eight glasses of water per day. (Anyone with kidney problems should not drink this much fluid.) A health care provider should be consulted to learn how much fluid is best for you.