E. coli is a type of bacteria that normally lives in your intestines and is passed in your stool. Most E. coli are harmless and even help keep your digestive system healthy. However, some strains of E. coli can cause illness, leading to diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia.
If E. coli gets into places where it doesn’t belong, such as your urinary tract, it can cause an infection. This leads to the question – can you pee out E. coli? Here we’ll explore how E. coli gets into the urinary tract, the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), how UTIs are diagnosed and treated, and whether peeing can get rid of E. coli.
How does E. coli get into the urinary tract?
E. coli enters the urinary tract in a few different ways:
- Wiping from back to front after a bowel movement. This can spread E. coli from the rectum to the urethral opening.
- Sexual intercourse. Intercourse can push E. coli towards the urethra.
- E. coli spreading from the intestines to the bladder through the bloodstream.
Once E. coli has entered the urethra, it can travel up to the bladder and cause an infection. From there, it can sometimes spread to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
A urinary tract infection causes the following signs and symptoms:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that smells strong or foul
- Pelvic pain or pressure (in women)
- Rectal pain (in men)
In some cases, there may be blood in the urine or fever and chills if the infection spreads. Lower abdominal pain and lower back pain are also possible.
Symptoms of a kidney infection, which can result from an untreated UTI, include:
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe flank pain (pain on one side of the back under the ribs)
- Blood or pus in the urine
How are UTIs diagnosed?
To diagnose a UTI, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. The main diagnostic tests are:
- Urinalysis: A urine sample is checked under a microscope for bacteria and signs of infection, like white blood cells, red blood cells, and protein.
- Urine culture: A urine sample is sent to the lab to identify the bacteria causing the infection and test which antibiotics will be effective.
Sometimes medical imaging like an ultrasound or CT scan is needed if there are concerns about kidney stones or other complications.
How are UTIs treated?
UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics, including:
- Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
Your doctor will select the antibiotic based on the urine culture results. It’s important to take the full course as prescribed, even if symptoms improve quickly.
For recurrent UTIs, your doctor may recommend taking a low daily dose of an antibiotic for 6 to 12 months. Other remedies like probiotics, cranberry juice, and vitamin C are sometimes used to help prevent UTIs.
Can you pee out E. coli?
Yes, you can pee out E. coli if it is causing a urinary tract infection. When you have a UTI, the E. coli bacteria multiply in the bladder and spread up the urinary tract. As the infection causes inflammation, white blood cells are recruited to the area. This leads to the cloudy, foul-smelling urine that is a symptom of UTI.
So when you pee with a UTI, you are peeing out some of the E. coli bacteria along with white blood cells and other evidence of inflammation. However, peeing alone does not cure the infection or get rid of all the E. coli. Taking a full course of antibiotics kills the bacteria from the inside and prevents the infection from spreading or recurring.
Some key points:
- Peeing helps flush some E. coli bacteria out of the urinary tract.
- But peeing does not treat the root cause or clear the infection completely.
- Antibiotics must be taken to fully resolve a UTI caused by E. coli.
- See your doctor if UTI symptoms do not improve after 2-3 days.
Can cranberry juice get rid of E. coli?
Drinking cranberry juice is commonly touted as a home remedy for urinary tract infections. Cranberries contain substances that may prevent E. coli from adhering to the lining of the bladder. So can cranberry juice flush out E. coli by preventing it from attaching?
Research shows cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs, but is not an effective treatment on its own once you have an established infection.
- In several studies, drinking cranberry juice daily reduced UTI recurrence compared to no treatment.
- However, cranberry juice was not as effective as taking antibiotics for treating active infections.
- Cranberries likely need to be consumed regularly to maintain protective effects.
- Cranberry capsules or tablets may provide a more reliable dose than juice.
So while cranberry juice cannot directly flush out E. coli once you have a UTI, it may help prevent repeat infections by stopping bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract. But antibiotics are still needed to fully eliminate infection-causing E. coli.
When should you see a doctor for a UTI?
You should see a doctor if you experience symptoms of a UTI, including:
- Burning with urination
- Increased frequency and urgency of urination
- Pelvic pain
- Cloudy, foul-smelling, or bloody urine
See your doctor right away if you also have:
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flank pain
- Symptoms that don’t improve after 2-3 days
These could indicate the infection may be spreading to your kidneys and requires prompt antibiotic treatment.
UTIs can usually be diagnosed through a urine test. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate antibiotics to clear the infection. Make sure to finish the entire course of treatment.
See your doctor again if symptoms return after finishing antibiotics. This may indicate an antibiotic-resistant infection requiring a different medication.
Can men get UTIs from E. coli?
Yes, men can get urinary tract infections from E. coli as well, though they are much less common. An estimated 12% of UTIs occur in men.
Risk factors for men developing UTIs include:
- Prostate enlargement or other urinary tract obstructions
- Recent urinary catheter use
- Sexual intercourse
The symptoms are similar to UTIs in women, including:
- Burning during urination
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Pressure or pain in the rectum
UTIs in men are treated with antibiotics, though they may require a longer course of treatment. Men over 50 should always be evaluated for prostatic enlargement when having UTI symptoms.
Can children get UTIs from E. coli?
Yes, children can develop urinary tract infections from E. coli. UTIs are relatively common in children, especially:
- Girls under 12 years old
- Uncircumcised boys under 6 months
- Children with urinary tract abnormalities
Symptoms may include:
- Increased frequency of urination
- Burning with urination
- Abdominal, back, or flank pain
- Strong-smelling urine
However, infants may show nonspecific symptoms like irritability, poor feeding, vomiting, or failure to thrive.
UTIs should be treated promptly with antibiotics in children to prevent kidney infection and reduce risk of kidney damage. Children with recurrent UTIs may need further testing and imaging.
Can pregnant women get UTIs from E. coli?
Pregnant women are at increased risk for UTIs, especially during the first and second trimesters. Reasons include:
- Hormonal changes that affect the urinary tract
- Physical pressure on the bladder from the uterus
- A shorter urethra that makes it easier for bacteria to enter
Symptoms are typical of other UTIs:
- Pelvic discomfort
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Cloudy and foul-smelling urine
- Blood in the urine
However, UTIs during pregnancy can lead to complications like:
- Kidney infections
- Preterm labor
- Low birth weight
So pregnant women with UTI symptoms should be promptly treated with antibiotics safe during pregnancy, usually cephalexin or nitrofurantoin. Left untreated, a kidney infection can cause early labor or even stillbirth.
When should you go to the ER for a UTI?
Most simple UTIs can be treated with oral antibiotics from your primary care doctor. However, go promptly to the emergency room if you have signs of a kidney infection, such as:
- Fever over 102°F (38.9°C)
- Chills and shaking
- Flank pain or back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or drowsiness
- Very dark or bloody urine
A kidney infection can permanently damage your kidneys or lead to sepsis, so urgent treatment with intravenous antibiotics is needed.
Also go to the ER if you have:
- Difficulty passing urine
- Weak urine stream or leaking urine
- New incontinence
These may indicate a complication like a blocked urethra or bladder problem requiring emergency care.
Can you die from an E. coli UTI?
It’s rare, but some complications of an E. coli UTI can be life-threatening:
- Sepsis: If the bacteria spread to the bloodstream, they can multiply and release toxins leading to sepsis. Sepsis is a dangerous immune response that can lead to organ failure and death.
- Kidney damage: E. coli can permanently damage the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. This condition requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Premature labor: A kidney infection in pregnancy can trigger early labor, leading to complications.
However, with prompt treatment of UTI and any complications, most people recover fully. Those at highest risk include:
- People over 65 years old
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with diabetes or kidney disorders
- Pregnant women
So while death is very unlikely, it highlights the importance of seeking care if UTI symptoms persist or get worse despite treatment.
Can E. coli be passed sexually?
Yes, E. coli bacteria can be passed between sexual partners. Some ways it can spread through sex include:
- Through fecal particles spreading from the anus to urethra or vagina
- Through contact with the genitals, thighs, or rectal area
- Through fluids exchanged during oral/anal sex
Fecal matter often contains E. coli. So any direct or indirect contact between the rectum and urethra poses a risk for bacterial transfer. Proper hygiene before and after sex can help reduce the risk.
Women are at greater risk for UTIs through sexual activity. Female anatomy makes it easier for E. coli to travel from the vagina to the urethra and bladder. Using condoms and urinating after sex can lower UTI risk.
Partners with an active UTI who have not completed treatment could increase transmission risk. So proper treatment and avoiding sex during UTI symptoms are advised.
How are E. coli UTIs prevented?
Some tips to help prevent E. coli UTIs include:
- Drink plenty of fluids to flush out bacteria
- Urinate frequently and when you feel the need to go
- Wipe front to back after using the toilet
- Pee after intercourse
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products
- Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing
For people prone to recurrent UTIs, daily preventive antibiotics may be recommended. Some other UTI prevention options include:
- Taking cranberry supplements
- Take probiotics to promote healthy vaginal bacteria
- Using vaginal estrogen therapy after menopause
- Avoiding spermicidal condoms and diaphragms
Maintaining good hygiene, hydration, and bathroom habits are important for reducing UTI risk. See your doctor at the first sign of symptoms for prompt treatment.
- E. coli from the intestines can enter the urinary tract and cause UTIs
- UTI symptoms include burning urination, pelvic pain, foul urine
- UTIs are diagnosed through urinalysis and urine culture
- Oral antibiotics like Bactrim or Macrobid are used to treat UTIs
- You can pee out some E. coli bacteria, but antibiotics are needed to fully cure infection
- Cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs but does not treat existing infections
- See a doctor promptly if UTI symptoms persist or worsen
- Complications like kidney infections require emergency care
- Drinking fluids, proper hygiene, and preventive antibiotics can help stop UTIs
So in summary, peeing can eliminate some E. coli bacteria but does not clear up the infection. Proper diagnosis and a full antibiotic treatment course are needed to get rid of infection-causing E. coli in the urinary tract. Seeking prompt medical care for persistent or worsening UTI symptoms can prevent complications and long-term kidney damage.