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The Rollin' RN's

UTIs: Another Annoyance of SCI

Once again, Roberta and I have been brainstorming and we’ve decided it’s time to tackle Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) head-on. We’ve noticed a LOT of questions and discussions on this topic that plague all of us at one time or another. We are not writing another article as to how to treat these nasty annoyances but to share some additional information to give you some food for thought.

As previously written, UTIs are nasty little annoyances that we are all familiar with but what can be done early in the process to avoid antibiotics? We are here to share a few ideas we have and we welcome any other ways you’ve found that have assisted in slowing down these little critters, otherwise known as bacterium. First, let’s start with the definition of a Urinary Tract Infection. When bacteria get into your bladder or kidneys and cause you to have symptoms, you have a urinary tract infection (UTI). It is important to know the difference between a true infection and bacteriuria (having bacteria in the urine but no symptoms). We (who use intermittent catheterization - IC) with SCIs will always have bacteria in our urine. FACT. This is why we want you all to understand this definition. Doctors (unfamiliar with SCI) feel because our urine cultures show bacteria in the urine, it must be treated. But as we mentioned before, we will ALWAYS have bacteria in our urine because of passing a urinary catheter. ANOTHER FACT!! Just because a physician suggests antibiotics, if you're not having symptoms, it is not necessary to have a course of antibiotic treatment. This is why this article is being written, to differentiate the facts of UTI symptoms and UTI signs.

UTI Symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Leakage

  • Increased spasms of the legs, abdomen, or bladder

  • Feeling the need to catheterize more often (frequency)

  • Burning of the urethra, penis, or pubic area

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Mild low back pain or other aches

  • Feeling “lousy” or tired

UTI Signs:

  • Sediment (gritty particles) or mucus in the urine or cloudy urine

  • Bad smelling urine (foul odor)

  • Blood in the urine (pink or red urine)

When Should You Call Your Health Care Provider?

If you develop a fever (temperature greater than 100°F) or if your symptoms are interfering with your life, you should contact your health care provider. He or she will want to know your temperature, current symptoms, and whether you have any allergies to antibiotics. Your health care provider will also want to get a urine specimen and will discuss with you whether antibiotics should be started right away or after the results of the culture are available. Applaud now; this is the perfect scenario for us with SCI. To repeat, physicians will discuss the topic of antibiotics. You, as the knowledgeable patient, can make the final decision based on that discussion.

Over time, some species of bacteria have become resistant to traditional antibiotics. There are several species of E. coli that are showing increasing drug resistance, and these are the primary causes of UTIs. We at The Rollin’ RNs have our own arsenal that works for us when we’re dealing with a potential UTI and we are rollin’ in to share that arsenal in hopes to prevent antibiotic resistance. (See our previous article: When Antibiotics Go from a Good Thing to a Bad Thing.) When we start with symptoms/signs of a UTI, we have to stop, take a deep breath, and choose a path of treatment. We are here to pass along some ideas for you to try (we don’t keep our discoveries to ourselves) when you decide to go to the right instead of the left (your physician’s office).

  • Drink plenty of water. Avoid sugary, fruit drinks, or soft drinks. Fruit drinks have tons of sugar and soft drinks are loaded with sodium and sugar.

  • Add slices of lemon to your water and take Vitamin C daily. Attempting to add some acidity to urine aids in decreasing bacteria.

  • Consuming cranberry tablets with a sufficient level of Proanthocyanidinis (PACs) assists in the deterrence of bacteria attaching to the bladder wall thus preventing infections. Look for products with 36mg PAC. (Some believe these others do not. We do.)

  • If cranberry is not used, then take D Mannose. D mannose works for some while cranberry works for others. Cranberry works for me and Roberta both.

  • D mannose is used for E. Coli bacteria. Females are more susceptible to E. Coli bacteria contamination due to our anatomy. D-Mannose is a type of healthy natural sugar that has been studied in the laboratory and it is known to attract some bacteria, particularly E. Coli, latching onto it so that the infection will be passed out via the urine.

  • When performing catheterization, maintain an extremely clean procedure. I was taught to cath in my own environment, where I have my own little germs, not elsewhere. I know this can be difficult but be aware of your surroundings.

We are here to make the suggestion to pause, reevaluate, and make an informed decision about your urinary care. Don’t make an impulsive decision to head straight to your physician for antibiotics. Take your time and see if that nasty annoyance clears on its own. If that offensive UTI doesn’t make an about-face in a couple of days, then schedule an appointment with your PCP, knowing you did your best.

It’s all good, so keep on rollin,’

Patty, BSN, RNC, and Roberta, RN

The Rollin’ RNs ™


Bladder Infection Treatment-D-Mannose for Bladder.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) & Spinal Cord Injuries.


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