Urinary infections in elderly individuals can cause pelvic pain, fever, chills, blood in the urine, frequent urination, and urinary retention.
If left untreated, they can cause kidney infections, and even permanent renal damage. Although oral antibiotics are effective in treating urinary tract infections caused by bacterial strains, prevention is key. Here are 5 ways to prevent urinary tract infections in the elderly population and why they are so effective:
Drink Plenty of Water Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water will help the elderly person avoid a urinary tract infection. Water flushes out toxins from the bladder so that they do not have a chance to multiply and cause an infection. In addition to this, water can also dilute bacteria in the bladder so that it becomes less potent and less likely to cause infection.
Lastly, water prevents dehydration. Elderly people may be susceptible to the effects of dehydration, which can lead to suppressed immune function and a higher risk for all infections. To make drinking water more palatable for the older adult, ice and fresh lemon can be added. Lemon acts as a natural diuretic, and will further help flush out harmful toxins from the urinary tract.
Maintain Hygiene One of the most common causes of urinary tract infections in senior citizens is poor hygiene after urination or a bowel movement. After using the bathroom, people should wipe the genitourinary area from front to back to avoid contaminating the urethra with fecal matter from a bowel movement.
If stool does make contact with the urethral opening, the elderly person should clean the area with warm water and soap to remove as much of the bacteria as possible. After this, he or she should start drinking water right away, so that if the bacteria reaches the bladder, it can be quickly flushed out. Consume More Vitamin C Many senior citizens fail to consume enough vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an essential nutrient known for it's anti-bacterial properties. It may also boost immune function so that the older adult will be less likely to develop a urinary tract infection.
Eating vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, grapefruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach will help provide the elderly person with his or her recommended daily allowance for ascorbic acid, however, if the individual is unable to tolerate these foods because of their effects on the gastrointestinal system, over-the-counter vitamin C supplements can be considered.
Limit Caffeine Intake Caffeine is a bladder irritant, and if consumed in large amounts, bladder and ureter spasms can develop, raising the risk for a urinary tract infection. Not only can caffeine raise the risk for an infection of the urinary tract, it can cause excessive urination and subsequent dehydration.
If your senior loved one enjoys coffee, tea, or colas, suggest that he or she drink the decaffeinated types. While decaffeinated beverages may still contain small amounts of caffeine, they usually do not contain enough to cause problems with the genitourinary system.
Avoid Excessive Use of Pain Relievers Certain over-the-counter pain relief medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can lead to diminished renal function if taken in large amounts over long periods of time. When renal function is suppressed, toxins and bacteria can build up in the urinary tract, raising the risk for infection or kidney failure.
If your elderly loved one needs pain medications, he or she should drink plenty of water throughout the day to help maintain optimal kidney function while promoting urination. While acetaminophen and ibuprofen can raise the risk for kidney problems, aspirin usually will not, if taken as directed.
While the above interventions will reduce a senior citizen's risk for urinary tract infections, they are not foolproof. At the first sign of infection, the elderly person should visit the physician, who will test the urine for bacteria, white blood cells, blood, and protein. If these substances are elevated, a urinary tract infection may be present, and an appropriate broad spectrum antibiotic will be prescribed.
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