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4 Surprising Causes of Urinary Tract Infections

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Urinary tract infections are more than annoying—they can be pretty painful, and unfortunately, about 20 percent of women will get one at some point. Even worse: Once you’ve had a UTI, your likelihood of having another one goes up. That's why we’re interested in anything we can do to suffer from them less frequently! You’ve heard about healthy habits like wiping—ahem—properly (that’s front to back) and peeing after sex. But did you know that these four things could also raise your risk for this common women's health condition

1. Cold, flu, and allergy meds. Any time your bladder holds onto urine, rather than completely voiding when you pee, your risk of a UTI goes up. That's because the longer urine sits in your bladder, the more time bacteria has to grow. Some medications can cause this; for example this month’s Harvard Health Letter warned that antihistamines could lead to UTIs. Decongestants can also have this effect, making your anti-allergy, anti-cold medications a common culprit. (Feeling under the weather? Check out these 5 Yoga Moves to Beat the Flu.)

2. Your birth control. If you use a diaphragm to prevent pregnancy, you could be at a higher risk of getting a UTI, reports the Mayo Clinic. A diaphragm may press against your bladder, which makes it difficult to completely empty it, which is one of the causes of a UTI. Spermicides can throw off the balance of bacteria, putting you at risk as well. If you have recurring UTIs, it might be worth asking your doctor about trying a new form of birth control.  

3. Chicken. Yep, you read that right. A study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found a genetic match between the e. coli bacteria that causes UTIs in humans and the e. coli in chicken coops. If you handle contaminated chicken and then go to the bathroom, you could be transmitting the bacteria to your body via your hands. (To minimize the chances of this happening to you, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing food, and cook raw meet well.)

4. Your sex life. UTIs aren't sexually transmitted, but sex can push bacteria into contact with your urethra, so getting busy more frequently than usual can raise your risk of contracting one. That’s why most infections start within 24 hours of sexual activity. Other sex-related risk factors: a new guy or multiple partners—so don't forget to have these 7 Conversations for a Healthy Sex Life.

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