Urinary Tract Infections

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, which is the body’s system for removing wastes and extra water. Women are more susceptible than men due to their anatomy and reduced bladder function later in life and symptoms vary by age and gender.

There are two different types of UTIs – the lower UTI relates to infections that occur in the urethra (a short narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) and bladder – and the upper UTI is more severe and relates to infections that may involve the kidneys. 

  • Pain or burning during urination;
  • Increased frequency, urgency of urination, incontinence;
  • Lower abdominal, pelvic or rectal pain or pressure;
  • Confusion, behavioral changes, increased falls;
  • Mild fever or “just not feeling well;” and
  • Changes in urine (such as milky, cloudy, bloody
    or foul-smelling).

Upper UTI symptoms develop rapidly and may not include the symptoms for a lower UTI and require emergency care. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:  

  • Fairly high fever (higher than 101F);
  • Shaking chills;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting; and
  • Flank pain (pain in the back or side, usually only on one side at waist level).

Your role if symptoms are noted:

People with UTI symptoms should see their health care professional as soon as possible or go to an emergency department for an evaluation. You should immediately notify your supervisor and follow your agency’s documentation rules.

Preventing UTIs

  • Drink plenty of fluids,
  • Do not postpone urination – urinate when you feel the need,
  • Keep genital areas dry and clean,
  • Change clothes when incontinent
  • Consider cotton underwear and avoid wearing tight pants
  • Wipe from front to back to avoid introducing bacteria into the vagina or urethra, and
  • Decrease length of time that catheters or tubes are placed in the urethra or bladder and change on schedule if prolonged use is needed.

People at risk for UTIs include, but are not limited to, those who have:

  • Incontinence of bowel or bladder,
  • Limited mobility,
  • Extended periods of catheterization (a tube inserted into a person’s bladder for urine drainage),
  • A suppressed immune system, or
  • A spinal cord injury or other nerve damage around the bladder that causes the bladder not to completely empty (which allows bacteria to grow).