If you feel a slight burn as you pee or notice you have to go even though you literally just went, it’s normal to be all like O___O. But don’t worry, there’s no need to freak out yet, says Maura Quinlan, MD, a Chicago-based OB-GYN. “You can wait and see if it will clear itself up within 24 hours or so, or if it will go the other path and become a true urinary tract infection.” (Important exception: If you’re pregnant, you should give your doc a call at the onset of symptoms, since a UTI can turn to a kidney infection much more quickly.) To lower the odds of getting a full-blown catastro-pee-level infection, go into emergency mode and live by these five bladder-loving commandments.
1. Guzzle water.
Now’s the time to start flying through those Sigg refills. “If there’s some bacteria trying to grab hold of the walls of your bladder, the more you urinate, the more bacteria gets pushed out,” Quinlan says. Her rule of thumb: Drink enough H2O that you have to use the bathroom regularly, even when your pee is diluted and super light-colored.
2. HOLD OFF ON SEX.
P-in-V intercourse, in particular, pushes bacteria from your nether regions up into the urethra and bladder. That can bring on a UTI even if you’re feeling fine, so if you’re already worried there’s an infection brewing, you definitely don’t want to make matters worse. Instead, tell your bae you’re pulling a brief sex strike à la Chi-Raq.
3. UP YOUR CRANBERRY INTAKE.
There’s some evidence that a chemical in cranberries keeps bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract. Try a high-quality juice (containing real cranberry juice, not, like, white grape juice plus a little natural flavoring), or cranberry extract pills from the drugstore. “It isn’t harmful and it may help,” Quinlan says. Why, exactly? “Cranberry helps prevent the bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder, which is necessary to cause a UTI.”
4. TURN TO MEDICATION.
AZO Urinary Tract Defense helps control the infection, thanks to an over-the-counter antibacterial called Methenamine. And be sure to get yourself to a doctor, particularly if your symptoms are getting worse or there’s blood in your pee, which are signs that you’ve got a full-blown UTI in need of an antibiotic. In other words, remember that nothing will take the place of a short course of doc-prescribed antibiotics.
5. STEER CLEAR OF “HELPFUL” SHOWER PRODUCTS.
Or really, any products that you don’t usually reach for. Fancy or scented soaps, creams, shower gels, douches and sprays (specifically designed for your lady parts or otherwise) can have a negative affect on your vaginal health by weakening its natural defenses. “Avoid [any product with] chemicals that will alter the bacteria that’s normally there,” Quinlan says. “They’ll kill off healthy bacteria and increase the risk of getting a UTI.”All you and your precious flower need are gentle soap and water.
This article first appeared on Cosmopolitan.