Non-Sexual UTIs: Causes and Prevention Tips

recurrent uti

Non-Sexual Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) can be a recurring issue for many, causing discomfort and disrupting daily life. While commonly associated with sexual activity, UTIs can also affect people who are not sexually active, leading to the question: How do you get a UTI without being sexually active? Understanding the causes of non-sexual UTIs and adopting preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of UTIs and further complications, such as kidney infection. So, let’s explore the common causes of UTIs, risk factors, symptoms, and effective prevention strategies.

Common Causes of UTIs

Bacterial Entry

The primary cause of non-sexual UTIs is bacterial infiltration into the urinary tract. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most common culprit, responsible for approximately 80-90% of these infections. This bacterium typically resides in the gastrointestinal tract but can find its way into the urinary system through various means. 

Improper wiping techniques (back-to-front wiping), inadequate genital hygiene, or contact with contaminated objects can introduce E. coli and other bacteria into the urethra, leading to infection.

Urinary Stagnation

Stagnation of urine in the bladder or urinary tract can create an environment conducive to bacterial growth and proliferation. Holding urine for prolonged periods, incomplete bladder emptying, or urinary retention due to underlying medical conditions can contribute to this stagnation. When urine remains in the bladder for extended durations, bacteria have more time to multiply, increasing the likelihood of infection.

Urinary Tract Abnormalities

Structural abnormalities or anomalies in the urinary tract can impair its ability to effectively expel urine and flush out bacteria. Conditions such as urinary tract strictures, kidney stones, kidney infections, or anatomical abnormalities may obstruct urine flow, leading to urinary stasis and predisposing some people to UTIs.

Medical Procedures

Certain medical procedures involving the urinary tract, such as catheterisation or urological surgeries, can introduce bacteria into the urinary system. Catheters provide a direct pathway for bacteria to enter the bladder, increasing the risk of infection, particularly in hospitalised patients or those with urinary incontinence.

Weakened Immune System

A compromised immune system due to underlying health conditions or immunosuppressive medications can diminish the body’s ability to fend off bacterial invaders. People with weakened immunity are more susceptible to infections, including non-sexual UTIs, as their immune defences may be insufficient to combat bacterial colonisation in the urinary tract.

woman with recurrent uti

Risk Factors

Several factors can heighten the risk of developing lower urinary tract symptoms and recurrent UTIs, including:


Women are at higher risk of developing UTIs compared to men due to differences in anatomy. The female urethra is shorter than the male urethra, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Additionally, the proximity of the urethra to the anus in women increases the likelihood of bacterial transfer from the gastrointestinal tract to the urinary tract.

Can men get UTIs? 


Age plays a significant role in UTI susceptibility. Elderly individuals, particularly those residing in long-term care facilities, are more prone to UTIs due to factors such as weakened immune function, urinary incontinence, and comorbidities. Similarly, infants and young children are at heightened risk due to immature immune systems and difficulty maintaining hygiene practices.

Urinary Tract Abnormalities

Structural abnormalities or anomalies in the urinary tract, such as urethral strictures, vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), or urinary diversions, can increase the risk of UTIs. These abnormalities may interfere with normal urinary flow, leading to urinary stasis and providing a breeding ground for bacterial growth.


People with diabetes, especially those with poorly controlled blood sugar levels, are more susceptible to UTIs. High blood sugar levels can impair immune function and promote bacterial growth, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections. Additionally, diabetes-related complications such as neuropathy can interfere with bladder emptying, predisposing some people to UTIs.

Weakened Immune System

Conditions or medications that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, corticosteroids, or immunosuppressive therapies following organ transplantation, elevate the risk of UTIs. A compromised immune system diminishes the body’s ability to combat bacterial invaders, allowing pathogens to proliferate in the urinary tract.

Catheter Use

Indwelling urinary catheters are commonly associated with UTIs, particularly in healthcare settings. Catheters provide a direct pathway for bacteria to enter the bladder, increasing the risk of infection. Prolonged catheterisation, improper catheter care, and frequent catheter changes can further exacerbate the risk of UTIs.

Recent Urinary Tract Procedures

People who have undergone recent urinary tract procedures, such as cystoscopy, ureteroscopy, or bladder surgery, are at increased risk of developing UTIs. These procedures may disrupt the natural barriers of the urinary tract and introduce bacteria into the urinary system, predisposing patients to infection.

Understanding these risk factors is the key to identifying individuals who may be predisposed to non-sexual UTIs and implementing targeted preventive measures. By addressing modifiable risk factors and adopting appropriate hygiene practices, individuals can reduce their susceptibility to urinary tract infections and promote urinary tract health.


Symptoms to Watch For

Recognising the symptoms of a non-sexual UTI is ideal for timely intervention. Look out for:

Frequent Urination

People with UTIs often experience an increased urge to urinate, even when their bladder is not full. This frequent need to urinate may be accompanied by only small amounts of urine being passed each time.

Pain or Burning Sensation While Urinating

A common symptom of UTIs is a burning or stinging sensation during urination, known as dysuria. This discomfort typically occurs as bacteria irritate the lining of the urethra and bladder during voiding.

Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine

Urine infected with bacteria may appear cloudy or murky in appearance. People with UTIs may notice a strong or unpleasant odour emanating from their urine, which may indicate bacterial presence.

Pelvic Pain or Discomfort

Some individuals with UTIs may experience pelvic pain or discomfort, which can range from mild to severe. This discomfort may be localised to the lower abdomen, pelvic region, or back and may worsen during urination.

Fever or Chills

In more severe cases of UTIs, particularly those involving upper urinary tract infections (e.g., pyelonephritis), people may develop fever or chills. These systemic symptoms indicate an inflammatory response to the bacterial infection and may be accompanied by fatigue or malaise.

Blood in Urine

Hematuria, or the presence of blood in the urine, is another potential symptom of UTIs. Blood may appear pink, red, or brownish in colour and can be indicative of inflammation or irritation within the urinary tract.

Urinary Urgency

Along with frequent urination, individuals with UTIs may experience a sudden and intense urge to urinate, which may be difficult to control. This urinary urgency can disrupt daily activities and may be accompanied by anxiety or discomfort.

Recognising these UTI symptoms is essential for prompt diagnosis and treatment of non-sexual UTIs. If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect a urinary tract infection, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and appropriate management. Delaying treatment can lead to complications and prolonged discomfort associated with UTIs.

frequent urination

Prevention Strategies

Prevention is undoubtedly the best defence against non-sexual UTIs. Incorporate these strategies into your routine to prevent UTIs:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water

  • Maintain good hygiene, especially around the genital area

  • Urinate promptly after sexual activity

  • Avoid holding urine for prolonged periods

  • Opt for showers over baths

  • Choose cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing

  • Avoid irritating feminine hygiene products

Dietary Recommendations

Certain dietary choices can promote urinary tract health and reduce the risk of infections. 

Stay Hydrated

Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining urinary tract health – it helps flush bacteria from the urinary system. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure optimal urine production and dilution. Clear or pale-yellow urine is a sign of adequate hydration.

Incorporate Cranberry Products

Cranberry juice or supplements containing cranberry extract may help prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli (E. coli), from adhering to the urinary tract lining. Consider incorporating unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry supplements into your diet, but be mindful of added sugars in commercial juices.

Consume Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can promote a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut and urinary tract. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha into your diet may help support urinary tract health and reduce the risk of UTIs.

Limit Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Excessive consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners can disrupt the microbial balance in the urinary tract and increase the risk of UTIs. Limit intake of sugary foods and beverages, as well as products containing artificial sweeteners, to maintain urinary tract health.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients and supports overall immune function. Aim to incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your meals to support urinary tract health and overall well-being.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can irritate the bladder and worsen urinary symptoms in individuals prone to UTIs. Limiting the intake of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda, as well as alcoholic beverages, may help reduce urinary tract irritation and minimise the risk of UTIs.

Be Mindful of Spicy Foods

Of all the foods to avoid with a UTI, spicy foods rank highly. Spicy foods, such as those containing chilli peppers or hot spices, can irritate the bladder and exacerbate urinary symptoms in some individuals. Be mindful of your tolerance for spicy foods and consider reducing consumption if you experience urinary discomfort or irritation.

cranberries for uti

Hygiene Practices

Practising good hygiene habits is paramount in preventing non-sexual UTIs. Remember to:

Proper Genital Hygiene

Maintain good genital hygiene by washing the external genital area with mild soap and water regularly. Use gentle, unscented cleansers to avoid irritation, and always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus to the urethra.

Urinate Promptly

Avoid delaying urination when you feel the urge to void. Holding urine for prolonged periods can contribute to urinary stasis and increase the risk of bacterial growth and UTIs. Make it a habit to urinate promptly when you feel the need, and empty your bladder completely each time to flush bacteria.

Wear Breathable Undergarments

Choose underwear made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics such as cotton to promote airflow and prevent moisture buildup in the genital area. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and synthetic materials that trap heat and moisture, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth.

Change Sanitary Products Frequently

During menstruation, change sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups frequently to prevent bacterial buildup and reduce the risk of UTIs. Opt for unscented and hypoallergenic menstrual products to minimise irritation and maintain vaginal pH balance.

Avoid Irritating Products

Avoid harsh soaps, douches, perfumed powders, or sprays in the genital area, as these products can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and increase the risk of urinary tract infections. Opt for gentle, fragrance-free products formulated for sensitive skin.

Practice Good Toilet Habits

Adopting good toilet habits can help minimise the risk of UTIs. Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent bacteria from the anus from entering the urethra. Avoid excessive wiping, which can irritate the skin, and consider using moistened wipes or a bidet for gentle cleansing.

woman in breathable clothing on couch

Natural Remedies

While medical intervention is sometimes necessary, certain natural remedies may complement conventional treatment or aid in prevention. These include:


D-mannose is a type of sugar that may help prevent UTIs by stopping bacterial adhesion to the urinary tract lining. It works by binding to bacteria, particularly E. coli, and facilitating their removal from the body through urine. D-Mannose supplements are available over-the-counter and can be taken as a preventive measure or during UTI flare-ups.

Herbal Supplements

Certain herbal supplements, such as uva-ursi (bearberry), buchu, and goldenseal, have been traditionally used to support urinary tract health and alleviate symptoms of a UTI. These herbs have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help combat bacterial infections and soothe urinary discomfort.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is known for its immune-boosting properties and acidic nature, which can help create an unfavourable environment for bacterial growth in the urinary tract. Increasing your intake of vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, capsicum, and kiwi may help reduce the risk of UTIs.

Herbal Teas

Certain herbal teas, such as green tea, chamomile tea, and dandelion root tea, have diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties that may help promote urinary tract health and alleviate UTI symptoms. Enjoying a warm cup of herbal tea regularly can help support overall urinary tract function.

While natural remedies can complement conventional treatments and support urinary tract health, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. 

When to Seek Medical Help

Promptly seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe symptoms, recurrent urinary tract infections, complicated urinary tract infections, symptoms worsening despite home remedies, or any signs of complications, such as fever or kidney pain.

Non-sexual UTIs can be a recurring nuisance, but with proactive measures, their frequency and severity can be significantly reduced. By understanding the causes, adopting preventive strategies, and maintaining good hygiene practices, you can take charge of your urinary tract health and enjoy a life free from the discomfort of UTIs. 

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