As misguided as this rule is according to experts, many women still link the use of public toilets to contracting urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and other infections.
And many women spend considerable amounts of money buying vaginal cleaning products to rinse their inner nether regions of possible infection or odour.
“But, contracting UTI’s generally doesn’t have much to do with hygiene even though it’s a common misconception. It’s purely a case of anatomy making women more prone to contracting infection. Women’s urethras are much shorter, making it easier for infections to seep through”, Dr Yair Edinburg said.
According to online medical resource WebMD, UTIs are a key reason we’re often told to wipe from front to back. That’s because the urethra, the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, is close to the anus.
“Bacteria from the large intestine, such as E. coli, are in the perfect position to escape the anus and invade the urethra. From there, they can travel up to the bladder and, if the infection isn’t treated, can infect the kidneys”, it explained.
Edinburg said: “It’s important to pass urine after sex to flush out bacteria... it’s also important to stay well hydrated as dehydration is also a risk factor. Also not going to the toilet when you feel the need to”, he said.
Peter de Jong, a Cape-Town-based gynaecologist said that the most common way to contract UTIs are through vigorous, prolonged sexual intercourse. Another way is bathing in hot soapy water.
Although there is no way of completely avoiding UTIs, De Jong suggested showering is better than bathing and women should empty their bladders every three hours to minimise infections.
“The best form of therapy is an antibiotic called fosfomycin, one sachet is all it takes. In older women, vaginal oestrogen applied topically, reduces the risk of UTIs,” he said.
Urinary tract infections don’t always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do, the MayoClinic says they may include:
* A strong, persistent urge to urinate.
* A burning sensation when urinating.
* Passing frequent, small amounts of urine.
* Urine that appears cloudy.
* Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-coloured - a sign of blood in the urine.
* Strong-smelling urine.
* Pelvic pain, in women - especially in the centre of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone.
Other types of vaginal infections Edinburg cautioned women to look out for include: “Candida or as it’s most commonly known, thrush, It’s a yeast infection and often women will have a discharge (white) and itchiness around their vagina. Another infection that can go unnoticed us chlamydia and is often sexually transmitted. It however, can go undiagnosed for years because people don’t have outward symptoms of it for years”.
All these infections are normally treated with a course of antibiotics, provided one visits their doctor as soon as they notice unusual symptoms.