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Catheter insertion may help to drastically improve your quality of life, but catheters, catheter plugs, and caps, and urinary drain bags are not without their risks. In fact, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, or CAUTIs, are the most common type of healthcare infection. They account for 30% of all healthcare-associated infections reported by acute care hospitals, and nearly all of healthcare-related UTIs are caused by insertion of catheters.

This is why it's so important that patients with catheters take extra care of their urological supplies. Although some infections are unavoidable, proper care and a clean environment can help to drastically reduce your risk of getting a CAUTI. Since untreated CAUTIs can result in immune system stress and even kidney infections, you'll want to follow these six simple steps to lower your chances of infection.
  1. Keep it clean
    The best way to reduce your infection risk is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. You need to do this before and after touching any part of your catheter system, including catheter plugs and drain bags, as well as after touching or using the toilet. You also need to wash the genital area at least once daily. Be sure to refrain from using soaps with added perfumes or a high pH.
  2. Keep tubes straight
    Do not tug or pull on your tubing. Make sure any catheter leg bag extension tubing is free from kinks and twists, as these can lead to build-up and subsequent infection.
  3. Empty bags
    Your drain bags should be emptied regularly. This can help to keep your bladder pressure low. Drainage bags should be kept below your bladder but should never rest on the floor. Be sure to clean and change them regularly as your doctor has recommended.
  4. Fluid levels
    You need to maintain proper fluid levels to optimize catheter performance. It can be a tricky balance to get right. You need to produce enough fluid to maintain at least 1,200 mL per day, but excessive fluid intake can create bladder complications. If you aren't sure whether your current fluid levels are correct, ask your doctor for clarification.
  5. Stay regular
    Since constipation can lead to pressure in the bladder and can interfere with emptying, bowel movements need to be kept at an optimal level. Although you should check with your physician before introducing more fiber into your diet or exercise into your daily routine, both of these can help reduce bowel complications.
  6. Ask if it's necessary
    More and more hospitals are realizing that the best way to limit CAUTIs is to eliminate unnecessary catheter use. When catheters are used for long periods of time, the rate of infections naturally goes up. Even if you replace your catheter once per month as recommended, just the presence or insertion of a catheter increases your risk. The less time you have your catheter, the better off you will be. Be sure to check regularly with your doctors to see if having a catheter needs to be a part of your life.

Common CAUTI symptoms include cloudy or bloody urine, strong urine odor or leakage, pain or discomfort in your stomach or back, fever, chills, and vomiting. If you think you've developed a CAUTI, contact your doctor right away.