Urinary Tract Infections
Medics in survival scenarios have to deal with major injuries and serious infections, Sometimes, infections aren’t serious to begin with, but worsen if not treated. Some of these infections involve the urinary tract.
Urine directly from the bladder is generally sterile, but most women have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) at one point or another. The areas most commonly contaminated are the bladder, which holds the urine, and the urethra, the tube that drains the bladder. Although men can also get bladder infections (called “cystitis”), their urethra is much longer and bacteria are much less likely to reach the bladder.
If untreated, bladder infections may ascend to the kidneys via tubes called ureters, causing an infection known as “pyelonephritis”. Once in the kidneys, it can make its way to the bloodstream and lead to shock or worse.
Symptoms of UTIs
Each type of UTI manifests in more or less specific signs and symptoms, depending on which part of the urinary tract is infected.
Inflammation of the urethra (urethritis) may be caused by E.Coli, Gonorrhea, Herpes, and other bacteria and viruses. Sufferers will feel a burning sensation with urination; males may also have a urethral discharge, while women with certain sexually transmitted infections may notice a foul discharge from the vagina.
Bladder infections are characterized by pelvic pressure, lower abdominal pain, and frequency of urination. Some people may feel an urgent need to go without warning (urgency) but notice that the stream of urine is slow to start (hesitancy). The urine itself may be cloudy or red-tinged with blood and have a strong smell.
Once the infection reaches the kidney (pyelonephritis), other signs and symptoms will become apparent. Fever and chills are common, with pain on the flank (the side of your back). Normally, it will be noticeable only on one side by tapping the flank lightly at the level of the lowest rib with the side of a closed first. This will elicit no response in a healthy patient, but someone with an infection will grimace and flinch. Kidney stones may be mistaken for a kidney infection, as they also cause tenderness in this region. They are, however, less likely to cause fever.
Treating a UTI
Treatment revolves around the vigorous administration of fluids. Lots of water will help flush out the infection by decreasing the concentration of bacteria in the affected organs. Some feel relief with a heating pad or compress in the area of discomfort.
Antibiotics are another standard of therapy. The following are commonly used for UTIs (brand names and veterinary equivalents in parenthesis):
- Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra, Bird-Sulfa, Fish-Sulfa)
- Amoxicillin (Amoxil, Fish-Mox)
- Ampicillin (Fish-Cillin)
- Cephalexin (Keflex, Fish-Flex)
- Azithromycin (Zithromax, Z-Pak, Aquatic Azithromycin)
- Doxycycline (Vibramycin, Bird-Biotic)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro, Fish-Flox)
For dosages, days taken, side-effects, and warnings, use the search engine on this website for the particular antibiotic.
To eliminate the pain that occurs with urination in UTIs, stockpile over-the-counter medications like Phenazopyridine (also known as Pyridium, Uristat, Azo, etc.). Don’t be alarmed if your patient’s urine turns a reddish-orange color; it is an effect of the drug and is only temporary.
Natural Remedies for UTIs
There are a number of natural remedies to treat someone with a urinary infection. Vitamin C supplements, for example, are thought to reduce the concentration of bacteria in the urine.
- Garlic or garlic oil (preferably in capsules).
- Echinacea extract or tea.
- Goldenrod tea with vinegar (1 to 2 tablespoons),
- Uva Ursi (1 tablet).
- Cranberry tablets (1 to 3 pills).
Take any one of the above remedies three times per day.
Another home remedy is to take one Alka-Seltzer tablet and dissolve it in 2 ounces of warm water. Pour directly over the urethral area.
One more alternative that may be helpful is to perform an external massage over the bladder area with 5 drops of lavender essential oil (mixed with castor oil) for a few minutes. Then, apply a gentle heat source over the area; repeat this 3 to 4 times daily. The combination of lavender/castor oil and warmth may help decrease bladder spasms and pain.
I’m sure you have a tried-and-true strategy of your own. As with many home remedies, however, your experience may vary. In normal times, consult your physician.
Preventative medicine plays a large role in decreasing the likelihood of urinary tract infections. Basic hygienic method, such as wiping from front to back after urinating, is important for women. Also, emptying the bladder right after an episode of sexual intercourse is a wise choice.
Wear cotton undergarments to allow better air circulation in areas that might otherwise encourage bacterial or fungal growth. Adequate fluid intake, especially cranberry juice if available, is also a key to flushing out bacteria and other organisms. Lastly, never postpone urinating when you feel a strong urge to go.
Off-grid medics may have to deal with gunfights at the OK corral, but it’s how well they handle everyday problems like UTIs that gauges their day-to-day contributions to their community.
Joe Alton, MD
Learn about UTIs and 150 other medical topics in the 700 page Third Edition of the Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is Not on the Way.