Hesperian Health Guides

Treating and preventing urinary infections

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 5: Taking care of your body > Treating and preventing urinary infections


Bladder infection

a woman holding a cup of urine while holding her nose.
Smelly urine is a sign of infection.

Most women can tell when they have a bladder infection because they have pain or burning when they pass urine, or they have pain in the lower belly just after passing urine. If you have no feeling in the belly, you will have to look for some of these other signs:

  • need to pass urine very often
  • cloudy-looking urine
  • urine that smells bad
  • urine that has blood or pus in it
  • sweating or feeling hot (signs of dysreflexia)

Treatment for a bladder infection

Start treatment as soon as you notice the signs.

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Often bladder infections can be treated with teas or other plant remedies. Ask the older women in the community which plants will help.
  • Drink a lot of water. Try to drink at least 1 cup of clean water every 30 minutes. This will make you pass urine often and can help wash out germs before the infection gets worse.
  • Stop having sex for a few days or until the signs have gone away.


If you do not feel better in 1 to 2 days, start taking medicines as well as drinking a lot of water. If you do not feel better in 2 more days, see a health worker. You may have a sexually transmitted infection.

Medicines for bladder infection
Medicine How much to take When and how to take
cotrimoxazole
(160 mg trimethoprim and
800 mg sulfamethoxazole)
2 tablets of 480 mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 3 days
or
nitrofurantoin 100 mg by mouth, in 2 times a day for 3 days

Kidney infection

Sometimes a bladder infection can spread through the urine tubes into the kidneys. Kidney infections are more serious than bladder infections.

Signs of kidney infection:

  • middle or lower back pain, often severe, that can go from the front, around the sides, and
    into the back
  • nausea and vomiting
  • feeling very ill and weak
  • fever and chills
  • any bladder infection signs


If you have signs of both bladder and kidney infection, you probably have a kidney infection. When a woman has a kidney infection, she is usually in great pain and can become very ill. She needs help right away and home remedies are not enough. Start taking one of these medicines right away. If you do not start to feel better after 2 days, see a health worker.

Medicines for kidney infection
Medicine How much to take When and how to take
ciprofloxacin
(Do not use if you are
breastfeeding)
500 mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 10 days
or
cefixime 500 mg by mouth, in 2 times a day for 10 days
or
cotrimoxazole
(160 mg trimethoprim and
800 mg sulfamethoxazole)
2 tablets of 480 mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 10 days
If you cannot swallow medicines because you are vomiting, see a health worker. You will need medicines by injection.

How to help prevent urinary infections

Keep your genitals clean. Germs from the genitals—and especially the anus—can get into the urinary opening and cause infection. Try to wash the genitals every day, and always wipe from front to back after passing stool. Wiping forward can spread germs from the anus into the urinary opening. Also, try to wash your genitals before and after having sex. Keep the cloths and pads used for your monthly bleeding very clean and dry.

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  • Make sure your catheter is not bent or twisted so that urine can come out easily.
  • Pass urine after having sex. This helps wash out the urine tube.
  • Drink plenty of liquids and empty your bladder regularly.
  • Do not lie down all day. Stay as active as you can.


Most women take medicine only when they have signs of an infection. But some women get infections frequently, often when they begin their monthly bleeding, so they start to take medicine then.