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Optimal Health, Women's Health

Are UTIs Contagious? Get the Real Scoop

BY PUREHEALTH RESEARCH | December 19, 2023

A Person Sitting on a Bed Holding Her Crotch Due to UTI

Disclaimer: Although this blog post includes a brief product reference for promotional reasons, it primarily aims to provide our readers with insightful and valuable information.

Are UTIs contagious? Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) affect millions worldwide each year, causing discomfort, pain, and inconvenience. They happen when bacteria infect any organ in your urinary system, which comprises the urethra, ureters, kidneys, and bladder. Escherichia coli, a parasite that exists in the large intestines, is the prominent cause of UTIs. If left untreated, UTIs can result in severe long-term consequences, such as permanent kidney damage. That’s why prompt medical attention is essential when experiencing symptoms.

Urinary tract infections happen in both males and females. However, they are more common in women than men because of their differences in anatomy. Unlike a man, a woman’s urethra is shorter and closer to the anus. Research shows that almost 50–60% of women develop UTIs at least once in their lifetimes, while only one in eight men report getting a UTI in their entire lives. Is UTI contagious to others? UTI is not a sexually transmitted disease. However, having sex can increase a person’s risk of developing a UTI.

An infection in the urinary system can be uncomfortable or painful, but luckily, there are a few medical treatments that cure UTIs in a matter of days. Also, there are a few tricks you can use to avoid urinary tract infections and reinfections. This article is an in-depth look at UTIs, their causes, risks, and treatments. It also discusses prevention measures against urinary tract infections and answers the question, is urinary tract infection contagious?

Are UTIs Contagious? Understanding Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Unhappy Young Woman Sitting on the Floor Wrapping Her Arms Around Knees Wondering if UTIs Are Contagious

E. coli can affect any part of the urinary tract. There are three main types of UTIs based on the organ affected. They are:

  • Urethritis – when it’s the urethra that has an infection.
  • Cystitis – when there’s an infection in the bladder.
  • Pyelonephritis – when an infection happens in the kidneys. 

The latter is the most severe of the three UTIs. If untreated, the infection can cause permanent damage to the kidneys. The bacteria can also spread to the bloodstream and cause a lethal condition called Sepsis. 

Primary UTI Symptoms

UTIs don’t always exhibit symptoms, but when they do, it’s because the bacteria have caused inflammation in the lining of the infected organ. Some of the common symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection include the following:

  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating.
  • Frequent need to urinate but discharging only small amounts of urine.
  • Cloudy and strong-smelling urine.
  • Blood in urine — you may notice your pee is red, pink, or orange, indicating the presence of blood.
  • Pelvic pain — mostly prevalent in women, especially around the area of the pubic bone and in the center of the pelvis.
  • Pain or pressure on the lower back, lower abdomen, and sides.

Other UTI Indicators 

Some patients may also experience other signs, such as:

  • Fever or chills — which is often a sign that the infection may have reached your kidneys.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain in the penis for men.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s vital to consult a skilled doctor and get a diagnosis because some STDs can cause UTI-like symptoms. Also, STDs are contagious, while UTIs are not. It is best to get tested and treat the illness accordingly. It’s important to note that UTIs can escalate, so it’s best to ask your doctor for treatment before your UTI gets out of hand.

Causes & Risks

As mentioned above, Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the primary bacteria responsible for UTIs in most patients. It typically exists in the large intestines and may get out through the anus during bowel movements. Once the bacteria finds its way to your urethra, it causes an infection, and if you don’t treat it, it travels up into the bladder. If still left untreated, it enters the kidneys and causes Pyelonephritis.

It’s vital to note that both females and males can get Urinary Tract Infections. However, as stated before, women are more vulnerable to getting this ailment than men. Also, certain risk factors generally increase some people’s chances of contracting UTI. These risk factors include the following:

  • Pregnancy. The decrease in the uterus and bladder muscle tone due to increased progesterone during pregnancy and the pressure that a growing uterus puts on the bladder slows the urine flow, putting pregnant women at a higher risk for a UTI.
  • Menopause. The decrease of estrogen during menopause alters the bacteria in the urinary tract, increasing the risk of UTIs.
  • Urinary catheter and urinary procedures. People who need the help of a catheter to pass urine may be at risk of contracting catheter-associated UTI (CAUTI). Equally, people who have recently had a urinary tract exam or surgery may get an infection due to the disruption of the normal urinary tract bacteria.
  • Urinary tract problems. Urinary issues such as enlarged prostate can alter the normal urine flow, increasing the chances of contracting an infection.
  • Sexual activity. Sexual acts, including penetration, anal sex, use of toys, masturbation, and fingering, can also introduce E. coli to your urinary tract. But is a UTI contagious from female to male? That’s highly unlikely.
  • Certain types of birth control. Birth control methods such as diaphragms put pressure on the urethra through the vagina, increasing the risk of infection. Also, spermicidal agents such as flavored condoms promote bacteria by altering the typical vaginal environment.
  • People with weak immune systems. People on immunosuppressant medications such as chemotherapy and people whose immune systems have been suppressed by diseases such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes are at increased risk of UTIs.

Are UTIs Contagious Between Humans?

You’ve probably been wondering, are UTIs contagious between humans? UTIs are not transferable between two people. Most people often wonder, are UTIs transmissible during sex? A person with an infected urinary tract cannot transfer the infection to a partner during sex. However, it’s important to practice hygiene when practicing sexual acts to decrease the likelihood of being exposed to harmful bacteria.

Sexual acts can introduce foreign bacteria into the sexual organs, and consequently, the bacteria can easily find their way into the person’s urethra and cause UTI. If infection is already present, it is best to avoid sex until it has cleared entirely because sex in whichever form can irritate the infected area further and possibly worsen the condition. In most cases, though, a UTI can cause extreme discomfort, reducing the desire for sex.

Additionally, you shouldn’t receive oral sex while you have a UTI to avoid spreading bacteria from the genitals to the mouth and vice versa — which could lead to a secondary infection.

You may be asking, can you catch a UTI from someone else if you use the same toilet seat? Contrary to popular myth, it is unlikely for anyone to get a UTI from a toilet seat because both males’ and females’ urethras don’t typically touch any part of the toilet while urinating.

What About Pets?

Can UTI be contagious in pets? This may shock many, but your pets can also get an infection in their urinary tracts. But is urine infection contagious in pets? UTI happens mostly in dogs and sometimes in cats. Just as in humans, E. coli is responsible for UTIs in pets. Some of the symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection in a pet include the following:

  • Frequent licking of the genitals
  • Dripping urine
  • Whimpering when urinating as a sign that it’s painful
  • Frequent, small amounts of urination 
  • Blood in urine 

It is best to take your pet to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment if you suspect it has a urinary tract infection. Are UTIs contagious in dogs, and are UTIs contagious in cats? The answer is No. Just like in humans, urinary tract infections are not transmissible in cats and dogs. However, the causative bacteria can be transferred when in contact with infected feces or debris that can enter the urethral opening.

Ways UTIs Can Spread

Can a UTI be contagious? In short, no. As mentioned before, UTIs spread when E. coli and other bacteria enter the human urinary tract. E. coli typically exists within the large intestines and can find its way out during bowel movements. That’s why you may get UTI through activities such as wiping from back to front after using the bathroom (for women) and holding in urine, giving the bacteria time to multiply and cause an infection.

While UTI is not sexually transmitted, having sex without observing proper hygiene can spread the bacteria from your partner’s anus, genitals, sex toys, or fingers into your urethra, causing an infection. This makes urinary tract infection contagious in most people’s imagination, but not in reality. In other words, the notion that you can get a UTI from another infected person is a mere misconception.

Bacteria from a toilet seat may also transfer to a thigh, buttock, or a piece of your clothing, then spread to the genitals into the urethra, causing an infection. Still, the urethra won’t directly get infected from a dirty toilet or toilet seat. Wearing wet or tight undergarments may also promote bacterial growth around the genitals and into the urinary tract. Some people also wonder whether saliva can cause UTI. Since E.coli needs to enter urinary tract, it’s very unlikely it can’t cause a UTI.

In animals, as previously mentioned, UTI can spread when pets are outdoors and feces or debris enter the urethral opening. Also, as cats and dogs lick their genitals, they may push bacteria into their urethral openings, and once the bacteria multiply, it causes UTI.

UTI Treatments

It’s critical that you go to a doctor if you suspect you have a UTI. The physician will typically take your urine sample and analyze it for UTI-causing bacteria. However, your doctor may order an MRI scan, CT scan, or ultrasound if you experience recurrent infections in the urinary tract. These tests can help them identify any structural problem in your urinary tract that could be causing frequent UTIs. Alternatively, they may use cystoscopy to examine the bladder and urethra.

Antibiotics are the most efficient in clearing UTIs. After a positive diagnosis and depending on the severity of your infection, your healthcare provider prescribes the appropriate antibiotic and painkillers. You may have to take pills for a few days or weeks, depending on the harshness of your infection. However, IV antibiotics and hospitalization might be necessary in case of severe infections. Often, UTI symptoms start clearing up within a couple of days from starting the treatment.

Fundamentally, you should take all your prescribed medication even after you start feeling better to avoid the risk of reinfection. If you experience frequent infections, your doctor can recommend measures such as vaginal estrogen therapy for menopausal women, low-dose antibiotics for you to take for six months or longer, or an after-sex single dose if your UTIs are related to sexual activity.

How To Prevent UTIs

Happy Young Woman Drinking a Cup of Tea

Prevention is better than cure, and it is best to avoid UTIs because it can be uncomfortable and painful. While UTI contagiousness is impossible, you may have the risk factors we discussed earlier in the article that might increase your chances of contracting UTIs. However, you can make lifestyle changes to protect yourself from bacterial infection and reinfection in your urinary tract.

These changes are aimed at ensuring that the bacteria that causes UTI (E. coli) doesn’t find its way into your urethra and also to flush out any other bacteria that might be within your urinary tract. Below are some of the best ways to prevent UTIs. 

Drink Plenty of Fluids

It’s vital to take a lot of fluids, especially water, on a daily basis. You can also consider vegetable and fruit smoothies and decaffeinated herbal tea. Drinking these fluids helps lower the concentration of bacteria in the bladder by diluting your urine. Additionally, consider adding cranberry juice to the list of fluids. Sometimes, copious fluid intake can clear an infection. 

Urinate Regularly

If you drink plenty of fluids, you should get the urge to urinate regularly. Peeing more frequently flushes bacteria out of your urinary tract before they can fester and cause an infection. Urologists recommend that you urinate at least once every three to four hours. Also, it’s essential to empty your bladder as soon as you feel the need to do it; avoid holding urine in because it encourages bacterial growth.

Especially if you’re pregnant, holding urine doubles your risk of getting a UTI. If you have children, it is best you encourage them to hydrate often and take bathroom breaks every three to four hours.

Maintain Proper Hygiene

Consider proper hygiene habits such as showering before and after sex. This reduces the chances of bacteria going up your urethra during intercourse. Females should always wipe from front to back after using the washroom because wiping from back to front can introduce E. coli to their urinary tracts.

Additionally, as a female, it’s vital to change your pad and tampon every four to eight hours during your monthly periods, regardless of how light the flow is. It’s also essential to always wear dry and breathable cotton underwear to prevent moisture from accumulating around your urethra, which can allow bacterial growth.

Empty Bladder After Intercourse and Thoroughly

Urine is a waste product from the kidneys, and peeing is a way to remove the waste. As discussed earlier in the article, sexually active women have a higher risk of contracting UTIs. Sex can introduce bacteria to your urethra, and peeing before and after sex helps flush it out. It’s vital you take your time in the bathroom and ensure you empty your bladder thoroughly. Incomplete bladder emptying allows a potentially harmful urine accumulation, which can potentially cause urinary tract infections. 

Avoid Bladder Irritants

Some foods, hygiene products, medication, and drinks irritate the bladder, worsening the symptoms of cystitis. It’s best to avoid these irritants when recovering from a urinary tract infection or if you have recurrent UTIs. Some common bladder irritants include coffee, all alcoholic drinks, tea, cigarettes, sugar, especially artificial sweeteners, milk products, chili, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages. Most people are not sensitive to all these substances, so you should identify and avoid the exact foods and drinks that worsen your symptoms.

Additionally, women should dodge scented feminine products such as douches, perfumed powders, scented pads or tampons, and deodorant sprays. These products can disrupt the healthy bacteria of the vagina, allowing harmful bacteria to grow. It also helps to discuss any medication that might irritate your bladder with your doctor. Also, it’s best to rethink your birth control in cases where methods such as using a diaphragm are causing your UTIs.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! An in-depth look at the question, are UTIs contagious? The truth is that it is not infectious. Is UTI contagious to others through sex or sharing objects? No, UTI is not contagious, but the UTI-causing bacteria, E. coli, can transfer from one person to another. However, UTI mostly results when the bacteria move from your rectum into your urethral opening.

Urinary tract infections can be uncomfortable and painful, and if not treated, they can cause permanent kidney damage. Therefore, you must seek medical care immediately after you notice symptoms of an infection. While women and people with certain risk factors are more susceptible to getting UTI, you can minimize contracting it by making lifestyle changes such as avoiding bladder irritants.


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