Combating Urinary Tract Infections Among College Students
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) is the second most common infection in the body. They are caused by the presence of bacteria in urine, although fungi and virus could be involved. They are more common in women than in men.
Reasons to increased prevalence among women are the proximity of their urethra (the tube that conveys urine out of the body from the bladder) to the anus, short length of urethra and warm and wet environment of perineum.
UTIs are usually asymptomatic that is, they show no symptoms. About half of all patients with the disease have no symptoms.
However pain or discomfort during urination, a need to urinate more often than usual, sudden urge to urinate, feeling as though you’re unable to empty your bladder fully, blood in urine, cloudy foul-smelling urine and low back and tummy pain are some of the signs and symptoms that may be present in individuals manifesting the disease.
The prevalence of Urinary Tract Infections is very high among college students especially in females. It is estimated that 65% of female college students have significant number of bacteria ( > 105 colonies) in their urine, though most of them do not show symptoms of the disease.
Several factors have been linked to the increased rate of urinary tracts infections among students. Among these include
- Indiscriminate consumption of antibiotics. Self-medication that is taking drugs without medical practitioners’ prescription, especially with antibiotics and pain relievers is a common practice found among students. Antibiotics when taken indiscriminately, kill the normal microorganism in the vaginal area that fight against infectious microrganisms.
- Inadequate water intake – Water intake less than 1 litre in a day has been found to have a very close link with increased UTIs among students. Less water intake may lead to less urine production; which is needed to periodically flush the urethra (the tube that conveys urine out of the body from the bladder) off microorganisms that may cause UTIs.
- The habit of holding urine – this is also a common practice found among students due to the unhygienic nature of most college toilet facilities and the fear of contracting infections from these toilet facilities. However, holding urine and the use of washroom only 1-3 times in a day also put one at risk of getting UTIs.
- The use of public toilets. Poor toilet facilities found in hostels and faculties and inadequate supply of water to clean and flush toilets regularly are some of the challenges that put students at risk of getting the disease.
- Unsatisfactory toilets habits. Habits such as cleaning your anal area towards your genitals and improper perineal hygiene after visiting the toilets put one at risk of contracting UTIs. The organism most frequently responsible for UTIs is the normal faecal microorganism called E. coli.
- Sexual activity – this enhances better transmission of UTI especially in females.
Despite the high prevalence of the disease among students, there are general principles and guidelines that can help avoid the disease in many instances. Among these include
- Wipe front to back. After bowel movements, clean the area around the anus gently, wiping from front to back.
- Never wipe twice with the same tissue.
- Wash properly, front to back, in the shower or bath. Rinse well and remember to wipe correctly from front to back.
- Avoid long intervals between urinating. Try to empty the bladder at least every 4 hours during the day while awake, even if the need or urge to void is absent.
- Do not wear tight-fitting undergarments made of non-breathing materials. With such fabrics, accumulating moisture builds up and bacteria growth is enhanced; exposing the bladder to bacterial infection. Cotton underwear is suggested.
- Drink more water at least 10 cups (2.5litres) in a day. If the urine appears any darker than a very pale yellow, this means not enough liquid is being ingested; increase the fluid intake.
- Take special precautions after sexual activity; drink 2 extra glasses of water and the bladder should be emptied after intercourse.
- Take antibiotics only as prescribed by a doctor. If a medication has been prescribed, follow the physician’s instructions carefully and complete the recommended course.
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