Colder weather has arrived, which means a higher risk of colds and influenza, along with other cold-weather-related health effects. For instance, arthritis sufferers often have more achy joints, while people affected with asthma will experience more frequent coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. But for anyone with urinary issues such as an overactive bladder or urinary tract infections, a temperature drop, can also affect you too.
Urinary conditions made worse by cold weather
During winter, it’s not uncommon for physicians to see an escalation of patients with urinary and bladder problems, especially overactive bladder and urinary tract infections. Colder air means you will sweat less than usual, which causes an increase in urine production. Normally, this is not a problem for most people unless you have an overactive bladder.
Cold weather’s affect on an overactive bladder
If you have an overactive bladder (OAB), your days (and nights) may be frequently interrupted with sudden uncontrolled urination urges, which can sometimes cause urinary incontinence. There are many factors leading to an overactive bladder which include the following:
- Hormonal changes
- Medication side effects
- Diseases like stroke and multiple sclerosis that affect the brain and spinal cord
- Weakness or spasms of the pelvic muscles
- Damage of neurological signals between the brain and bladder
- Weakened bladder walls due to excess weight, childbirth, and age
During winter months of cold air, your body will want to preserve warmth around your internal organs by reducing blood flow to your skin. This one chance can raise your blood pressure to help pump more blood throughout the body. Since your kidneys are your body’s filtering system, an increased blood flow means the kidneys must make more urine to meet this filtering need. Since less sweat is produced during cold weather leading to less water loss, more urine is stored within the bladder and the need to urinate more often.
If your bladder is affected by any of the risk factors for an overactive bladder, it will have difficulty keeping up with the increased frequency in urination. In addition, cold air that lowers your body’s internal temperature can cause bladder muscles to spasm or tense up triggering urinary urgency.
Cold weather’s affect on urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections are also affected by cold winter weather. The same factors that lead to an overactive bladder – the body protecting internal organs by keeping them warm leads to higher blood pressure with increased urine production – can also lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Cold air causes us to sweat much less than warm, humid air. The lack of water loss from sweat also leads to a reduction in thirst. Therefore, even though the weather is chilly, your hydration needs remain the same year-round. Dehydration is the main cause of increased UTIs in cold weather. Insufficient fluids will reduce the kidney’s ability to filter out waste, including bacteria. When bacteria remain behind in the urinary tract for too long due to lack of urination, the bacteria can grow, leading to a UTI.
Tips on reducing OAB and UTIs during colder weather
When you understand why OAB and UTIs can increase in cold weather, there are tips on how to prevent them or at least reduce their frequency:
- Drink water and unsweetened tea but avoid alcohol: Alcohol and caffeinated beverages are diuretics that can cause water loss. Stay hydrated with water or unsweetened tea.
- Stay physically active: Exercise helps your kidneys and urinary system to remove waste by encouraging more urine flow. Daily Kegel exercises and other pelvic floor strengtheners for men and women are good for OAB helping manage urine flow.
- Always wipe from front to back: This is a classic method for helping prevent UTIs.
- Minimize urinary tract irritants: Avoid using feminine sprays or powders in the genital area.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking irritates the bladder making OAB worse. In addition, this bad habit can increase frequent urination, and a smoker’s cough can cause urine leakage.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.