Most of us do not think much about Urinary Tract Infection but this infection can be a serious threat to your health. If not treated immediately, UTIs can lead to kidney infections that can eventually damage these organs. And if worst comes to worst, untreated urinary tract infections can even lead to kidney failure. Sepsis is another life-threatening (in the elderly) infection of the bloodstream that is primarily contracted through UTI.
Urinary Tract Infection or more commonly called UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. Bacteria found in the urethra, bladder or kidneys accumulate in the urine and your immune system does not thwart it. This illness is more prevalent in women than men since women’s urethras are shorter than men’s.
Urinary Tract Infections in Elders
Urinary Tract Infections are prevalent in men and women of all ages but most especially in the elderly. Older adults are more prone to infections since their immune system has weakened over time compared to that of a younger person.
Here are three ways you can help prevent UTIs in older friends or relatives.
Understand the elderly do not exhibit the common symptoms of UTI.
The common symptoms of UTI include:
- Pelvic pain
- Frequent urination
- Bloody urine
- Night sweats or chills
- Strong-smelling urine
- Cloudy or dark urine
- Pain during urination
Older people do not usually exhibit these symptoms because their immune system is too weak to counteract the infections. So, most of the time, these symptoms will not manifest. Symptoms of UTI in elderly people are usually mistaken as dementia or Alzheimer’s because the symptoms are more on behavioural changes. These symptoms include:
- Incontinence or the inability to hold your bladder
- Poor motor skills
- Other behavioural changes or any sudden change in their mental health
It is very important to watch out for any slight behavioural changes as this may be early signs of UTI.
Reduce the risk of UTI with these lifestyle changes
There are other ways to prevent urinary tract infection. Here are steps to reduce the risk of UTI.
- Change underwear often.
- Keep genital area clean at all times. For women, it is advisable to always wipe from front to back.
- Wear cotton underwear instead of nylon and change them at least once a day.
- As much as possible, let the elderly use the bathroom instead of adult diapers.
Even though it is impossible to prevent every urinary tract infection, these steps and good hygiene definitely lessen the risk of catching the infection.
Be sure to feed the body the nutrition it needs
When your elderly loved one has contracted a urinary tract infection, the first thing you should do is to go see a doctor. Another important action to take is to feed his/her body the nutrition it needs. Be sure to know what type of foods people with an infection should eat.
Below is a list of foods to eat or avoid if your parent, friend or relative happen to have a urinary tract infection.
Foods to avoid:
- Sugar: Studies have shown that people should avoid eating sugar when they have a urinary tract infection since the bacteria feeds on sugar. You should avoid eating refined sugars such as cakes, cookies, soda, and all other starchy foods. Be sure to also look out for hidden sugars found in other products.
- Acidic Fruits: These should also be avoided since the acid irritates the bladder which could most likely worsen the infection. These fruits include tomatoes, pineapples, oranges, lemons and limes, and grapefruits.
- Spicy foods, alcohol, and dairy products: These are also other foods to avoid since they also irritate the bladder.
- Caffeine: Such as caffeinated coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase the heart rate which causes the bacteria to circulate faster to the affected areas.
Foods to eat:
- Probiotics: Go and enjoy your yogurt! Yogurt and other fermented products are great with UTIs since they contain good bacteria namely, Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. These bacteria help strengthen your urinary tract and also build a wall in your bladder area therefore reducing the risk of contracting UTI.
- Vitamin C-rich foods: Such as cauliflowers, spinach, broccolis, guavas, red berries, kiwis, and cabbages. These vitamin-rich foods combat the bacteria since it prevents the growth of E-coli therefore making your urine less acidic.
- Cranberries: Studies show that drinking cranberry juice daily helps prevent urinary tract infections in women. Cranberries contain a plant compound that also prevents E-coli growth. Plus, they are rich in antioxidants. There are also cranberry pills for UTI.
- Non-sugary foods: Opt for whole foods instead of packed or canned foods.
- Drink water: Drinking fluids, especially water, is of utmost importance when an elderly has UTI. A dehydrated body causes the urine to be more concentrated therefore irritating the bladder even more. Water flushes out the toxins in the body.
Always remember which foods to eat or to avoid. The food you eat plays a vital role in helping cure UTI.
It is important to maintain good hygiene and a well-balanced diet at all times, not just for the elderly and not just for the duration of your Urinary Tract Infection. Doing so greatly reduces the chance of UTI. Prevention is always better than cure.
If you notice that an elderly person has the symptoms mentioned above, immediately get him/her checked and conduct a urinalysis. Early detection of UTI will greatly help your loved one cope with the illness.