Woman showing thumbs down sign

UTIs are the *Worst*—Here’s How to Prevent & Treat Them

Laylah Funk

So, you’re in the bathroom and it burns every time you pee and you’re wondering why the f*ck you even still have to pee ‘cause you literally just went. Emphasis on the fact that it burns

Getting a UTI is—hands down—one of the most foolproof ways to run an entire week. Even more unfortunate? They’re super common, with 50%-60% of women developing a UTI in their lifetime—making it a painful and overall annoying kind of rite of passage for women everywhere. 

But, what is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection is, you guessed it, an infection in your urinary tract (the bladder, urethra, uterus, and even kidneys!). On a perfect day, your urinary tract is sterile—meaning there are no germs or bacteria and you’re free to carry on in ignorant bliss. On a not-so-perfect day, outside bacteria can find its way in, setting you up for infection, burning inflammation, and a trip to the doctor.

On the bright side, UTIs are (usually) pretty easy to treat—but that doesn’t make them any less grueling. For the sake of your own comfort, it’s best to just avoid them if you can help it—and luckily, there are a ton of things you can do to lower your risk of stubborn UTIs.

Don’t blow it off. (Aka, make a doctor’s appointment STAT.)

As much as I love ignoring random ailments and just hoping they’ll eventually go away, UTI symptoms should not be ignored or treated at home. Sure, those over-the-counter UTI-relief pills that turn your pee orange may temporarily take care of the pain and discomfort, but they don’t get rid of the actual infection.

When you set up an appointment with your doctor, they’ll likely perform a urinalysis to screen for an infection in your urinary tract. If doc’s results confirm your suspicions, you’ll probably get put on a round of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria that’s causing your UTI. These antibiotics can start working to relieve your pain as quickly as one day (thanks, science!)—but it’s important to finish your entire antibiotic prescription even if you’re back to feeling your normal self way before. Just because it doesn’t burn when you pee anymore, doesn’t mean all of the bacteria that was causing your UTI is gone—so just let your antibiotic do its thing without interruption. 

I’ll also add that UTIs that aren’t treated properly can (and most likely will) turn into a kidney infection—which is somehow even more painful than your run-of-the-mill UTI. Bottom line: Go to the doctor and finish your antibiotic script.

Stay hydrated.

At this point, “drink more water” is just a universal truth. Drinking plenty of fluids is one of best ways to prevent UTIs, solely because peeing helps to flush out any bacteria that’s found its way into your urinary tract before it multiplies. Sure, making a trip to the bathroom every hour is annoying, but trust me when I say it’s not more annoying than dealing with a UTI. Drink your fluids, and when you have to go to the bathroom, just go. Holding it in only gives potential bacteria more time to silently multiply. 

What about cranberry juice?

There’s actually no concrete evidence to show that drinking cranberry juice is actually effective when it comes to preventing and treating UTIs. Do I wish I had known this before I chugged 32 fluid ounces of pure cranberry juice that one time in college? I sure do! But if unsweetened cranberry juice is your thing, then adding a glass to your daily fluid intake definitely won’t hurt. 

Make cotton panties your new go-to. 

Bacteria love damp environments. Avoiding tight-fitting clothing and switching to cotton underwear (we can help you out here) is a super-simple way to help keep you clean and dry down there, which helps prevent any bacteria from growing. (Maybe the no-show thong and dri-fit leggings combination isn’t the best thing to wear when you have a UTI. Lesson learned.)

Pee after you have sex! 

Interrupting your post-coital cuddle sesh to go to the bathroom is equally as important as it is unromantic. Any type of sexual interaction increases the chances of bacteria being introduced to your urethra, which is basically a UTI that’s just waiting to happen. Since peeing is, like, pretty much the best at flushing out that unwanted bacteria, making a habit out of doing it post-sex can make a huge difference. Even if you don’t necessarily gotta go.