This spring 2012 newsletter focuses on early recognition of urinary tract infections (UTI). Early recognition of a UTI can prevent the need for hospitalization. The newsletter describes what a UTI is, who is at risk of getting a UTI, and what the signs and symptoms of a UTI are. The newsletter includes a checklist that will help you identify these signs and symptoms in the individuals you support. Finally, the newsletter also explains how to prevent a UTI and what you can do if the person you support has a sign or symptom of a UTI.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Why is early identification and treatment of a UTI important?
Infections of the urinary tract are the second most common type of internal infection. Regional center special incident reports indicate that one in three hospitalizations for internal infection is related to a UTI. The earlier the UTI is diagnosed and treated, the faster the person will get better – usually without the need for hospitalization. As a support person, you must know who is at most risk for a UTI, what are the signs and symptoms of a UTI, and what can be done to prevent a UTI.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter the blood to get rid of wastewater and produce urine (pee) that flows from the kidneys to the bladder and out the urethra. Most UTIs are caused by bacteria (germs) that enter the urinary tract through the urethra.
Who is at risk of getting a UTI?
Everyone you support, no matter the age or sex, can get a UTI. You need to be watchful of people you support who are most likely to get a UTI. Women are at the highest risk for a UTI. For men and women, the risk of a UTI is highest after age 50.
Medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney problems put people at higher risk of a UTI. Individuals who do not walk, do not complete personal care/toileting independently, have bowel incontinence or constipation, or use a urinary catheter (a tube to drain the bladder), are at higher risk for a UTI as well. People you serve who take antipsychotic medication or have seizure activity may be at increased risk. Frequent or recent sexual activity is a risk factor for young women.
What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI?
A burning feeling when urinating is the most common sign. Other signs and symptoms include:
• Feeling like you have to pee even when you just finished urinating.
• Sleeping a lot, feeling very tired, or having no energy.
• Having pain in the lower stomach or genital area.
• Having cloudy, dark, bloody, or foul-smelling urine.
• Having pain in the back or side below the ribs.
• Having a fever or the chills.
• Feeling nauseous and vomiting.
Some symptoms you may hear about, for example, when a person tells you, “I have pain when I go to the bathroom,” “I want to stay home and sleep,” or “I feel hot”. Others you may learn about by seeing changes in the person’s behavior or their daily routine. For example, has the number of times the individual goes to the bathroom each day increased? Does the person rub or hold their lower stomach or back? The answers to these questions provide clues to how the person is feeling.
What do I do if the person I support has a sign or symptom of a UTI?
Call the doctor to report what you have heard and seen and to schedule an appointment. The earlier you get help, the faster the person will get better.
How is a UTI treated?
UTIs are treated with antibiotics that can kill the germs (bacteria) that cause the infection. If diagnosed with a UTI, make sure the person you support
• Takes antibiotics as directed.
• Gets plenty of rest.
• Drinks lots of water and other fluids (eight or more 8 ounce glasses a day).
• Urinates often.
Supporter Checklist--Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of a Possible UTI
Does this person have a burning feeling when going to the bathroom (urinating)? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does this person feel like they have to pee even when they just finished urinating? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does this person have pain in the lower stomach or genital area? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does this person sleep a lot, seem very tired, and have no energy? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does this person have have cloudy, dark, bloody, or foul smelling urine (pee)? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does this person have a fever or chills? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does this person have pain in the back or side below the ribs? ☐ Yes ☐ No
Does the person have nausea or are they vomiting? ☐ Yes ☐ No
If the person has one or more of these symptoms, it is time to call the doctor for advice and to schedule an appointment.
Use this checklist to help identify signs and symptoms. Write down what you see and hear to share with the doctor and with others who assist the person.
Take Antibiotics Properly! Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors to fight a UTI. Make sure antibiotics are taken as directed. It is important that the person with the UTI take all the antibiotics prescribed even if they start to feel better.
Prevent Dehydration! Lack of water can lead to dehydration that can make you very sick. A person with a UTI is at risk of dehydration. Encourage the person to drink plenty of water and other liquids to maintain adequate water in their body.
How to Prevent a UTI
Provide whatever support is needed to help prevent a UTI. Some preventive actions that the person you support can take include:
• Drinking plenty of water and other fluids (eight or more 8 ounce glasses a day).
• Going to the bathroom frequently.
• After a bowel movement, wiping the anal area from front to back with toilet paper until clean. You can support people who cannot wipe independently to stay clean and dry after a bowel movement or urinating.
Talk to women you support about additional actions they can take, including:
• After urinating, wiping the urethral area with toilet paper to dry.
• Changing sanitary pads or tampons often.
• Urinating before and after sexual activity.
• Taking showers or plain baths and avoid bubble baths or other feminine products that have deodorants or perfumes.
• Keeping genital area clean and dry.
• Wearing underwear with a cotton crotch.
Evaluate each person to determine the level of support they need for each of these prevention steps.
For more information about UTIs, log on to www.ddssafety.net to find:
• Supporter Tool – Fact Sheet: Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of a Possible UTI
• Supporter Tool – Checklist: Preventing a UTI
• Consumer Tool – Knowing What to Look for: Urinary Tract Infections