If you’ve ever had a UTI, you know you’d do just about anything to prevent it from happening again. (The constant bathroom trips, the burning, the clenching. It’s literally the worst.) Since urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that gets into the urethra and then multiplies in the bladder, there are a handful of things you can do to lower the chances of getting an infection. Here are five preventative measures you can take.
Drink a Ton of Water
The folks at the Mayo Clinic know what they’re talking about: Drinking lots of water (we’re talking at least eight glasses a day) helps dilute your urine. The more frequent bathroom trips will help flush bacteria from your system before an infection begins.
Don’t Hold It (Ever)
Here’s your official excuse to get up from your desk ten times a day. The longer urine sits in your bladder, the more likely it becomes that a bacterial infection will crop up. Cleveland Clinic urologic director Sandip Vasavada, MD recommends using the bathroom every four to six hours—and every three hours if you’re prone to UTIs. (And when you do, always wipe from front to back so you don’t introduce more bacteria.)
Always Go to the Bathroom After Sex
Take this one very seriously. Vasavada notes that sex can move bacteria from the vagina into the urethra. Using the bathroom afterward will help flush any unwanted bacteria right out of your system.
Be Skeptical About Cranberry Supplements
OK, this one's controversial. Some doctors, like Kimberly Cooper, a urologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, say it helps flush out the bacteria. Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says it’s a total placebo. If you’re willing to try, drink 100-percent cranberry juice (no sugar added) or take cranberry tablets. Don’t take more than the daily recommendation, and consult a doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure.
Keep Things Dry and Happy
If you’re especially prone to UTIs, the goal is to keep the entire area copacetic. That means wearing breathable underwear, avoiding fragranced feminine products and opting for showers over baths to keep dirt and soap from creating any irritation.