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Urology Shivers: Why Cooler Temps Lead to Certain Urinary Conditions

October 31, 2022 | By: Dr. Katherine Voss

If that unexpected “boo!” nearly caused you to have a little accident, you might want to blame the cold, not the kids. 

There are a few reasons why we get goosebumps on Halloween, besides haunted mansions and scary movies. Late October also ushers in the cold, with average temperatures dropping by nearly 12 degrees from late September, and those chills can play tricks on our urinary systems. 

If this sounds mysterious to you, it is for good reason. 

Unmasking the Cold-Weather Culprits Behind Urinary Issues

Ongoing research indicates that while our bodies adjust to colder temperatures, some functions have to catch up, and this can cause a lapse in efficiency. In the urinary systems, the lapse could contribute to overactive bladder (OAB) and urinary tract infections (UTIs). 

Overactive Bladder – Not So Chill

You may have noticed that when you are out in the cold, you have to go to the bathroom more often This is because the kidneys are making more urine to compensate for other bodily cold-weather “tricks.”

Trick one: The body preserves warmth around the internal organs by reducing blood flow to the skin. 

Trick two: This change causes blood pressure to increase, meaning more blood pumps through the body.

Trick three: The kidneys, which filter waste out of all that blood, must produce more urine to meet their filtering demand. 

Trick four: We sweat less in the winter and therefore lose less fluid, so there’s more urine stored in our bodies. 

The result: We have to pee more.

People whose bladders are weakened due to age, excess weight, or childbirth, might not be able to keep up with this increased frequency. It doesn’t help that when our body temperature lowers, the muscles around the bladder are prone to tense up or spasm, leading to the urgent need to urinate.

Urinary Tract Infections: Scary Bacteria

The same factors that contribute to OAB – warmer organs, higher blood pressure, and increased urine to filter the blood – also are the basis for why we are at higher risk of UTIs in the cold. Here are the “scares” that can lead to UTIs. 

Scare one: If you aren’t drinking enough fluids in the winter, then the kidneys won’t have enough resources to wash out the waste, including bacteria. 

Scare two: If that bacteria remains in the urinary tract too long, it can develop into an infection.

Scare three: Dehydration is a key cause of UTIs all year round, but in the winter, because we sweat less, we may not realize we need more fluids. 

The result: The less we pee, the longer urine sits in the bladder and the more time bacteria has to grow. 

These Precautions Could Help Scare OAB and UTIs Away

Now that you know what’s happening inside you when the temperatures drop, here’s what you can do to help from the outside.

  • Drink fluids, but watch out for spirits. Keep alcohol, as well as caffeine, to a minimum, especially before bed. This will improve hydration while not taxing the bladder at night.
  • Be active! Daily physical activity will benefit the entire urinary tract by helping it efficiently remove waste. For OAB, daily Kegel exercises, or pelvic squeezes, strengthen the muscles that manage urine flow. 
  • Wipe from front to back. This standard UTI prevention tip helps keeps bacteria away from the urinary tract. 
  • Keep irritants away. Minimize sprays and powders in the genital area. 
  • Avoid tobacco. Smoking can irritate the bladder and cause more frequent urination.
Stay Frosty – Treat Yourself to a Comfortable Winter

Our bodies respond to declining temperatures in ways we might not think about, because how we feel on the outside masks a lot. Stop, take a beat, and think about how everything inside feels. Be cool, but be safe!

If you experience symptoms of OAB or a UTI, you should know these are common conditions that are often easily treated. Don’t put off an appointment because you might feel embarrassed. Contact us online to set up an appointment soon. 

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