Throughout her three decades of life (Helen Skelton is only 37), the confident TV host revealed the worst illness she’s ever suffered from – “it was grim”, Helen grimaced. In 2013, the same year that Helen met her partner Richie Myler – a professional rugby league footballer – she had a kidney infection. “It happened after I did a 30-mile trek with the Marines for Blue Peter,” she revealed to the Daily Mail. “I was in bed for days.”
The NHS said a kidney infection is “a painful and unpleasant illness usually caused by cystitis – a common infection of the bladder”.
Most bladder infections won’t turn into a kidney infection; it’s only when bacteria travels up from the bladder into one or both kidneys.
Kidney infection symptoms
The symptoms of a kidney infection tend to appear within a few hours, and may cause you to feel:
You may also experience pain in your back or side, and these symptoms may be accompanied by signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Signs of a UTI include:
- Needing to pee suddenly or more often than usual
- Pain or a burning sensation when peeing
- Smelly or cloudy pee
- Blood in your pee.
Left untreated, a kidney infection can lead to permanent organ damage, so prompt treatment with antibiotics is needed.
The NHS added: “You may also need painkillers.” A full recovery can happen within two weeks, but older people may take longer to recover.
What causes a kidney infection?
Usually, bacteria (such as E.coli) gets into the tube that carries urine out of the body (known as the urethra).
The bacteria travels up to the bladder, causing cystitis, and then it can travel further up to the kidneys.
Where do you pick up E.coli from?
“E. coli bacteria normally live in your bowel, where they cause no harm,” explained the NHS.
“They can be transferred from your bottom to your genitals during sex or if you’re not careful when wiping your bottom after going to the loo.”
However, a kidney infection can be caused without a bladder infection, especially if you have kidney stones, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.
How to prevent a kidney infection
The best way to keep your urethra and bladder free from bacteria is to:
- Drink plenty of plain water
- Going to the loo as soon as you feel the urge
- Going to the loo after sex
- Wiping from front to back after going to the loo
- Washing your genitals everyday, and before having sex if possible
- Treating any constipation
- Not using a diaphragm or condoms coated in spermicide if you’re prone to getting UTI
Importance notice from the NHS
If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics, the likelihood is that you’ll start to feel better within a few days.
Even if you do feel better, you must take the prescribed antibiotics for the full course, which may be between seven and 14 days.
“If your symptoms show no sign of improvement 24 hours after treatment starts, contact a GP for advice,” said the NHS.