Urinary Infections Off The Grid

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the urinary tract includes a urethra, bladder, 2 ureters and 2 kidneys

The group medic in survival scenarios has to be ready to deal with major injuries and serious infections. Sometimes, infections aren’t serious to begin with, but can progress to something serious if not treated. Some of these infections involve the urinary tract. The urinary tract filters your blood and removes excess fluids and waste. The end result is urine.  It includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra, pictured above.

Urine directly from the bladder was once thought to be generally sterile, meaning devoid of bacteria. Recent studies, however, have revealed low levels of bacteria in otherwise healthy people. Therefore, not technically sterile. There are more than a million emergency room visits and 100,000 hospital admissions due to urinary tract infections (UTIs) annually in the United States.

Women are more commonly affected by UTIs than men. Indeed, most women have experienced one 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 (also called “cystitis”), their urethra is much longer and bacteria must travel much further to reach the bladder.

If untreated, bladder infections may ascend all the way to the kidneys via tubes called ureters. This causes a kidney infection, also called “pyelonephritis”.  Once in the kidneys, it can even 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 (cystitis) are characterized by pelvic pressure, lower abdominal pain, frequency of urination, and darker, cloudy,  or blood-tinged urine. Some people may feel an urgent need to go without warning (called “urgency”) but notice that the stream of urine is slow to start (called “hesitancy”). The urine itself may be cloudy or red-tinged with blood and have a strong smell. Some women also report leaking of urine, often without the other typical symptoms of a UTI.

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. Tap 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 and the pain will travel as the stone makes its way through the urinary tract.

Bacteria in the urine can be identified with the use of at-home dipstick tests. Here’s my article on reading commercially-available urinary strip products.

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.

various antibiotics work to treat UTIs

Antibiotics are the standard of therapy. Bacterial infections cannot be cured by increasing fluid intake. The following are commonly used for UTIs:

  • Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim
  • Amoxicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Azithromycin
  • Doxycycline
  • Ciprofloxacin

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’s an effect of the drug and is only temporary.

Natural Remedies for UTIs

 

There are a number of natural remedies to help someone with a urinary infection. Vitamin C supplements, for example, are thought to reduce the concentration of bacteria in the urine.

Others include:

  • 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 to help treat the pain of urethritis is to take one Alka-Seltzer tablet and dissolve it in 2 ounces of warm water. Pour directly over the urethral area.

One more natural 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.

Preventing UTIs 

Preventative medicine plays a large role in decreasing the likelihood of urinary tract infections.  Basic hygienic methods, such as wiping from front to back after urinating, is important for women.  Also, drinking a full glass of water and 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. People who get urinary tract infections are often dehydrated, characterized by dark, amber-colored urine. Strive to drink enough to make your urine light yellow or clear. Lastly, never postpone urinating when you feel a strong urge to go.

Certainly, the off-grid medic 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 effectiveness and value to their survival community.

Joe Alton MD

Dr, Joe Alton

Hey, don’t forget to check out our entire line of quality medical kits and individual supplies at store.doomandbloom.net. Also, our Book Excellence Award-winning 700-page SURVIVAL MEDICINE HANDBOOK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR WHEN HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY is now available in black and white on Amazon and in color and color spiral-bound versions at store.doomandbloom.net.

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