This is a post prepared under a contract funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and written on behalf of the Mom It Forward Influencer Network for use in CDC’s Get Ahead of Sepsis educational effort. Opinions on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CDC.
Like most women I know, I’ve endured my fair share of urinary tract infections, so when I felt the familiar sensation that I was ‘peeing razors’ one morning when I was in my late 20s and noticed my urine was a bit pink, I didn’t feel the least bit alarmed. In fact, I felt irritated. I had a day of meetings ahead of me, and a Halloween party with my boyfriend (now husband) the following evening, and I simply didn’t have time to sit in a doctor’s office that day.
So I ignored it.
I went to all of my meetings, took a client out for lunch, and even made it out for dinner and drinks that evening, and by the time I crawled into bed that night, I felt a little smug.
A UTI wasn’t going to get in the way of a fun-filled weekend!
Oh boy, was I ever wrong!
When I woke up the following morning, I felt horrendous, and when I went out to grab a much-needed coffee, I could barely make it home without feeling like I was going to wet my pants. I had the shakes, I felt feverish, and my lower abdomen just didn’t feel right.
But I wanted to go to that Halloween party, so I chalked it up to drinking a little too much vino at dinner the night before, and attempted to go about my day.
By mid-afternoon, it was clear I wasn’t going to make it to that Halloween party, and when my boyfriend came over to pick me up, I felt embarrassed. We had only been together for a few months by that point, and the last thing I wanted to do was admit I had a UTI, but I was too sick to take myself to the doctor on my own. I couldn’t go more than 30 minutes without needing to use the bathroom, I had the chills, and I felt absolutely awful.
So rather than getting dressed up in my sexy Halloween costume, my boyfriend and I spent the evening in the emergency room. Thankfully, the infection hadn’t reached my kidneys as we had originally feared, and after 24 hours of antibiotics, I started to feel like myself again.
But that first round of antibiotics didn’t cure my infection. Nope. It took 6 months of follow-up tests and 2 more rounds of antibiotics until we fully got my UTI under control, and when Mom It Forward asked me to help raise awareness about the #GetAheadOfSepsis campaign, I knew I needed to share my story and all of the things I learned about preventing and treating urinary tract infections.
Because anyone can get an infection, and almost any infection – even a urinary tract infection! – can lead to a life-threatening condition called sepsis.
What is a urinary tract infection?
Also known as a UTI, a urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter and infect the urinary tract. Here’s a link to CDC UTI information to learn more about UTIs: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/uti.html.
What are the signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection?
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
- Low fever (less than 101 °F)
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen
While less common, kidney infections can also occur, which are more serious. Flank or lower back pain, a high fever of 101 °F or above, nausea and vomiting, changes to mental status, chills, and night sweats are all warning signs and symptoms of a kidney infection.
What causes a urinary tract infection?
As noted on the CDC website, women and girls are at higher risk of developing a UTI, but there are other things that can increase your risk such as:
- A previous UTI
- Sexual activity, and especially a new sexual partner
- Changes in vaginal flora or acidity caused by menopause or use of spermacides
- Age (older adults are more likely to get UTIs)
- Reduced mobility (i.e. after surgery or prolonged bedrest)
- Urinary incontinence or urinary catheter placement
- Kidney stones
- Prostate enlargement
Please note that this is not an extensive list of causes of UTIs.
How are urinary tract infections treated?
If you have any of the signs and symptoms of a UTI or kidney infection, it’s important to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional immediately. He or she will ask about your signs and symptoms, complete a physical exam, and order a urine test if a UTI is suspected.
Most UTIs are caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics, however sometimes UTI signs and symptoms are caused by another illness, and a different treatment option may be required.
What are some ways I can prevent a urinary tract infection?
- Urinate before and after sex
- Stay well-hydrated and urinate regularly
- Opt for showers instead of baths
- Always wipe front to back
What do UTIs have to do with sepsis?
As previously mentioned, infections put you and your family at risk for a life-threatening condition called sepsis, which is a medical emergency. Almost any infection can lead to sepsis. In fact, UTIs are one type of infection that is most often associated with sepsis, along with lung, skin, and gut infections. Familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms and how you can stay ahead of sepsis can make all the difference.
Sepsis signs and symptoms can include one or a combination of the following:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Shortness of breath
- High heart rate
- Fever, or shivering, or feeling very cold
- Extreme pain or discomfort
- Clammy or sweaty skin
Certain people are at a higher risk of getting sepsis, including:
- Adults 65 or older
- People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer, and kidney disease
- People with weakened immune systems
- Children younger than one
How can you get ahead of sepsis?
- Talk to your doctor or nurse about steps you can take to prevent infections. Some steps include taking good care of chronic conditions and getting recommended vaccines
- Practice good hygiene, such as handwashing, and keeping cuts clean and covered until healed
- Know the signs and symptoms of sepsis
- ACT FAST. Get medical care IMMEDIATELY if you suspect sepsis or have an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse
Remember: Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or your loved one suspect sepsis or has an infection that’s not getting better or is getting worse, ask your doctor or nurse, ‘Could this infection be leading to sepsis?’
To learn more about sepsis and how to prevent infections, CLICK HERE.
For more information about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use.
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