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There’s a ‘UTI season,’ so better stock up on cranberry juice now

Anyone who’s had a urinary tract infection (UTI) knows how uncomfortable they can get. Unlike a yeast infection, UTIs can be constantly painful, and can even keep you from doing simple, everyday things.

Full disclosure, I used to get them quite often, because for some reason, my body was prone to them. No matter how much water I drank or how clean I kept myself, they kept coming back. Thankfully, after minor surgery, I now get them very infrequently, but I still get chills when I think about those awful symptoms that accompany them.

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UTIs are incredibly common in women. According to One Medical, 50 to 60 percent of adult women will experience at least one in their lifetime. The simple reason behind why women tend to get them much more often than men is women’s urethras are shorter and closer to the anus. That means that the likelihood of bacteria traveling into the urethra and causing an infection is much greater.

While you might get a UTI for any number of reasons, researchers recently discovered that one particular season seems to be a major catalyst for them — the summer.

Researchers at the University of Iowa looked at UTI hospitalizations from 1998 to 2011, and found that the numbers spike during the summer months. And while such severe UTIs only represent a small portion of the 7 million UTI cases that occur in the United States annually, it’s a good indication of the country’s UTI pattern.

They found this spike was most apparent in younger women between the ages of 18 and 40. As age went up, this tendency towards “seasonality,” as the study calls it, went down. While nothing’s been proven thus far, the researchers came up with several theories why our urinary tracts become more susceptible to bacteria in the summer.

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Dehydration being more common in the summer is one possible reason. However the more interesting cause is that sexual activity increases for younger women in the warmer months. Think about it. You’re more inclined to go out and be social when it’s warm, and we all know what socializing leads to… or dancing, if you’re from the Footloose town.

My own personal experience with UTIs has lead me to believe that sweat and hanging out in tight, spandex clothes after working out can play a part too. And obviously more sweating happens in the summertime.

So what can you do about it?

The study suggests that there’s not much that can be done about the influx in UTI hospitalizations, because that likely has to do with more resistant strains of bacteria than anything else. However, you can do several things to lower your risk of getting an everyday, run-of-the-mill UTI in the summer months.

1. Drink water regularly

No, you don’t have to be one of those people who carries around a giant water bottle bigger than they are, but you should try to be more conscious of hydrating in the summer, especially because your body loses moisture more quickly when it’s hot.

2. Pee after sex

Sure, you may be getting busy more often in the summer, but you can help prevent bacteria from getting cozy by peeing both right before and after sex.

3. Drink cranberry juice

Now, the effectiveness of this is somewhat debated, but cranberries do contain a natural antiseptic called hippuric acid, which can keep bacteria from sticking to the lining of your bladder.

4. Wipe from front to back

I know, I know, this may sound childish, but some people don’t know, and others are just lazy when they wipe after going to the bathroom. However, remember what we said about the proximity of the anus to the urethra? That’s how easily wiping the wrong way could lead to painful urination.

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5. Don’t hold it!

Waiting to pee puts stress on your bladder, and can lead to a UTI, so the rule of thumb is: If you feel it, free it.

6. Change your yoga pants

Any clothing that stays tight to your body can get sweaty, and sweat leads to bacteria if left in place for too long. So change your clothes before you sit and watch that episode of Gilmore Girls after working out.

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