Our obsession with cold-pressed juice aside, there is one flavor we're shy about ordering: cranberry. In fact, basically the only time we grab a bottle of this fruity concoction is when we're suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI). As explained by Alyssa Dweck, MD, a gynecologist in New York, UTIs happen when bacteria contaminates the urethra (the opening where you urinate from). What typically follows is an array of not-fun symptoms such as a burning sensation when you pee or blood in your urine.
Chances are you're all too familiar with this information already because, as the National Institute of Health reports, between 40 and 50% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime. Even more, getting a UTI once increases your risk of repeat infections — talk about a summer bummer. To avoid this major pain in the future, we partnered with AZO and conferred with Dr. Dweck to break down everyday habits that could leave you vulnerable. The good news if you do encounter this pesky bladder infection? Over-the-counter products like AZO's Max Strength Pain Relief help minimize discomfort until you can seek medical attention. The intention here, however, is that with the simple hygiene tweaks outlined ahead, you'll not only keep infections at bay but bypass them altogether.
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For optimal genital health, Dr. Dweck recommends choosing underwear with a cotton crotch that fits properly. When it comes to thongs, Dr. Dweck warns, "A very tight g-string can chafe the rectum and anus and carry bacteria towards the vagina and urethra, leading to infection." This is similar to what happens if you wipe from back to front, a behavior many of us have heard to avoid at all costs. She also recommends sleeping in loose-fitting garments if you've been prone to infections in the past. That way, your private area can breathe at night.
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"Lubricant is actually recommended for prevention of infection, particularly for those who are dry, because it cuts down on the risk of tiny peri-urethral (near the urethra) micro-abrasions or cuts that could occur during sex and cause a UTI," says Dr. Dweck. However, petroleum-based products should not be used inside the vagina as they can increase the risk of a vaginal infection. (Instead, try a water- or silicone-based option.) Dr. Dweck also recommends washing sex toys in between each sex act as another good hygiene practice.
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For those wondering if they're using the wrong type of soap or body wash near their private area, the trick is to avoid harsh or overly fragrant scents. Dr. Dweck added that the same goes for detergents and menstruation products. As for specific ingredients you should watch out for: glycerin can increase the risk of yeast infections.
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"Urinating after sex is a common-sense UTI risk reduction strategy," says Dr. Dweck. "This practice mechanically flushes the urethra of bacteria that may have come from thrusting during intercourse." While many of us know this best practice, it's also important to pee before sex, as well. If you currently have a UTI, try avoiding sex as it may further irritate and cause more discomfort.