UTI’s and travel: two things that definitely don’t go hand in hand.
Unfortunately, urinary tract infections (UTI’s) affect 50% of women and, once you’ve had one, you’re a lot more likely to be struck down again. Annoyingly, life on the road does increase your chances of contracting one. Long bus journeys spent holding it in, toilets you take one look at and then decide you’ll wait until later, poorer hygiene and a weakened immune system caused by stress and tiredness can all contribute.
If you’ve had a UTI before, you’ll probably be familiar with the warning signs that one’s coming on. If you’re lucky enough to have never had one, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself now with what to be on the look-out for. With a UTI, the golden rule is to act fast: the faster you act, the sooner you can stop it from getting any worse.
It pays to know how to recognize the impending signs of a UTI: discomfort, pain or a burning feeling whilst peeing, feeling like you need to go even when you don’t, and mild flu-like symptoms such as feeling too hot or too cold. If you start feeling any of these, however mild, it’s time to take the following steps…
Be Prepared – Preventative Medicine
My absolute, number one best treatment for UTIs is to take cranberry pills. Initially an old wives’ tale, scientists now recognize that cranberries fight urinary infections, although they still can’t work out exactly why. Frankly, if it works, I don’t care. You can drink cranberry juice, but on the road this can be hard to find and also impractical given the vast quantity you need to drink to make a difference. Cranberry pills, however, are a simple solution: small, strong and available cheaply from a pharmacist back home before you travel. I always stockpile before trips. Taking one pill a day reduces your chances of getting ill; if you do find yourself feeling a bit funny, then immediately up the dosage and overdose on cranberry pills for the next day or two. This usually does the trick and fights off the infection before it properly takes hold.
You will be able to find cranberry pills in pharmacies all over the world, if needed – but as UTIs can make you feel so rotten, it’s good to have your own supply ready and waiting in you backpack for emergencies.
Don’t hold it!
Try not to hold off going to the toilet if you need to (not always an option on the road I know). This is actually a key tip for preventing and treating a UTI. Although in the grips of an infection the last thing you’ll want to do is pee because it is so uncomfortable, you’ve got to do it. Which leads to my next tip…
Drinking lots of fluids (here’s a chance for that cranberry juice to shine if you can get your hands on it) will help essentially “flush out” the infection. Like we said, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s important. Stick to sugar free, caffeine free drinks though. Things like water, sugar free cranberry juice and herbal tea. Drinks like coffee, soda, and alcohol can actually make things worse and prolong the infection.
Remember to pee before and after sex. I know it’s not sexy, but then neither is being rendered unable to have sex for several days due to the crippling pain of a UTI. Your choice.
Hit the Pharmacy
If your UTI feels especially bad, or is still persisting even after a couple of days of cranberry pills and downing your own body-weight in water, then take a trip to the nearest pharmacy and ask them for advice. If there’s a language barrier try to find out how to say “urinary infection” or “cystitis” in the local language. Most pharmacies sell cystitis relief pills in sachets that can be mixed with drinks, and two or three days on those are usually all it takes to shake a stubborn UTI. If you know before you travel that you’re prone to bad infections, then it pays to stock up on these as well so you have your own supply at the ready.
See a Doctor
If your UTI still won’t go away, or the symptoms are getting awful, then head to the doctor and get yourself a prescription for a course of antibiotics. Don’t leave it: a bad UTI can turn into a full-blown kidney infection if left to its own devices, which is, surprisingly enough, not fun. If you start experiencing sharp cramps in your sides, vomiting or diarrhea or find blood in your urine then go see a doctor as soon as possible and get medical treatment.