Can I Get a UTI in Public Place: Pool, Beach or Hotel Room?

If your doctor tells you that you have a UTI, you may find yourself wondering how you got infected.  Even though most urinary tract infections are caused by the transfer of e.Coli via stool from the rectum to the urethra, others bacteria are not transmitted in the same way.   For example, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, and other bacteria can be picked up in any type of public setting where the urethra comes into contact with a transmission medium.

Before you start reading, you might find useful the article Is Uti Contagious? and know more about the ways to get infected.

UTI is contagious

Urinary tract infection are contagious

Now, let’s see how you can avoid UTIs from Pools, Whirlpools, and Beaches

When you visit a public pool or beach, most facilities recommend taking a shower before and after entering the water. Researchers are increasingly finding that using anti-bacterial wipes will not protect you from a wide range of illnesses, including urinary infections. For example, University of Michigan researcher Allison Aiello conducted a summary study that indicated washing properly with regular soap and water was far more effective than using an antibacterial wipe.

Before you even consider swimming or entering a whirlpool, you may also want to ask about recent chlorination dates.  Since it takes 3 – 5 days for chlorine to kill off all the bacteria in the pool, it may not be a good idea to enter the water in that time frame. This is especially important to consider during the weeks when pools are being filled the first time for the season.

How to Avoid Getting UTIs in a Hotel Room or Public Bathroom

Even if a toilet seat appears dry, there are no guarantees that bacteria aren’t lurking.  You should always be sure to flush the toilet, wipe down the seat, and then use a toilet seat liner before sitting down.  Aside from reducing the risk of getting a UTI, you will also reduce the risk of coming into contact with viruses that cause colds and other ailments.

Once you are done using the toilet or urinal, it is also very important to wash. According to National Institute of Health guidelines, you should  always wipe away from the urethra instead of towards it.   Individuals that have personally dealt with UTIs can also tell you that it is very important to pat the urethra dry instead of wiping to prevent the spread of bacteria.  After that, use warm soapy water, and then once again pat skin dry instead of wiping.

As you may be aware, most people will get at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime. Unfortunately, once bacteria colonize the bladder and urethra, they can easily evade the immune system, and then cause a whole new infection.  At the very least, if you avoid risky behaviors in public places, you will have a better chance of getting a UTI, as well as getting re-infected after a previous round.

References:
Dunn, Rob, Scientific American, Scientists Discover That Antimicrobial Wipes and Soaps May Be Making You (and Society) Sick, July 5, 2011, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/
Photo by juicyverve