What causes urinary tract infections?

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common infections that many women will likely experience at some point in their lives.

A UTI is an infection of your bladder, kidneys or the tubes that connect them, typically caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. The infection can be uncomfortable, causing a sudden need to pee and pain or burning when you do so, but can be treated with antibiotics, painkillers and plenty of fluids.

Superdrug's Pharmacy Superintendent, Niamh McMillan, has revealed some of the causes and the best way to get help and treatment.


Dehydration is one of the most common causes of UTIs, along with sex, pregnancy and conditions that block the urinary tract.

"Insufficient water intake can lead to concentrated urine, providing an ideal environment for bacterial growth," Niamh explains. "Maintaining adequate hydration is crucial to help dilute urine and reduce this risk. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day, to help keep on top of your hydration levels."

Holding in urine

If you do need to go to the toilet, it's important not to wait too long as you could end up with a UTI.

"Ignoring the urge to urinate can increase the risk of a UTI," the expert warns. "It is important to take timely bathroom breaks to promote optimal urinary health."

Chemical irritants

It is important to check the ingredients in your hygiene products, such as soap, as they may contain ingredients that can cause a UTI.

"Certain personal care products, such as harsh soaps and feminine hygiene sprays, can irritate the urethra, potentially leading to UTIs," Niamh states. "Opt for mild, fragrance-free products to maintain a healthy balance of the urinary microbiome. Maintaining good personal hygiene without disrupting the natural protective barriers can significantly reduce the risk of infection."

Tight clothing

Wearing tight clothing could increase your risk of getting a UTI.

"Wearing tight-fitting clothing, especially in the genital area, creates a warm and moist environment ideal for bacterial growth," Niamh explains. "Opt for breathable and comfortable fabrics to reduce moisture retention and lower the risk of infection."