LOCAL NEWS AND VIDEO FOR MCHENRY COUNTY, IL
December 19, 2014 Cloudy, 22F

Dr. Gott: Urine sterile until it leaves body

Dear Dr. Gott: A few years ago, my mother read something in your column that led her to believe that because urine is sterile, she doesn’t need to wash her hands after urinating.

Not having read that particular question and response, I don’t know what information you conveyed.

The problem for us now is that she is clinging to that “advice.” She lives in an assisted-living community, and the hygiene issue affects many other people. So, between whatever it was she gleaned from your column and a false claim to being allergic to soap, we have a real problem.

She reads your column faithfully, so it would be of great benefit to all who are in similar living circumstances if you would revisit the necessity of hand washing and other hygiene issues for those who live in healthcare communities. I’m a concerned daughter.

Dear Reader: Indeed, I must admit that in the past I indicated that hand washing wasn’t vital following urination. Well, I got raked over the coals (and rightly so) for that one by my readers and quickly realized the error of my ways. My beliefs are exactly that – mine – and I should not have passed them to others.

Generally speaking, urine is sterile until it leaves the body – free of bacteria and viruses. However, it contains waste products, fluids and salts. Infection occurs when organisms from the digestive tract cling to the opening of the urethra and multiply. The urethra carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. The most common bacterium is Escherichia coli, otherwise known as E. coli. Any abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine can trigger an infection. Furthermore, people with diabetes or disorders that suppress the immune system have a higher risk of UTI.

When we are young, we are oblivious and don’t think about things like this. But as we age, we may become a little less diligent about personal hygiene. It doesn’t matter whether we live alone, with an aging spouse or in a healthcare facility. We may feel that we are relatively inactive and don’t need to shower daily, wash our hair, keep our fingernails trimmed, and wash our hands. After all, if we sit around all day, we can’t get dirty and don’t need to take such measures, right? Well, no matter what bacterial or viral infection is mentioned today, one of the key things to do is to wash our hands. If we take the time to think, we are exposed to an overwhelming amount of bacteria and germs on door handles, shopping carts and telephone receivers every day of our lives. The safest and best protection is to keep our hands clean, including washing our hands after using the bathroom.

Tell your mother that she has a special place in my heart because of her beliefs, but hand washing prevents the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses. She should find a mild soap that she isn’t “allergic to” and wash her hands.

• Write to Dr. Gott at www.askdrgottmd.com or c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th fl., New York, NY 10016.

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