Can You Get a UTI From Fingers?

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and are most often attributed to sex, catheter use, or a general introduction of bacteria to the urethra. However, have you ever stopped to wonder if fingers can cause a UTI? They’re one of the dirtiest parts of the body, so it’s only natural to wonder if they might be a source of infection. Let’s discuss this further.

Table of Contents

What Is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the bladder, ureters, urethra, or kidneys, which are all part of the urinary tract. A UTI usually refers to a bladder infection from bacteria, but it is a blanket term for infection of any of these parts by any pathogen.

What Causes UTIs?

The most common cause of a UTI is bacteria, specifically E. coli. E. coli are naturally found in and around the anus, and when they make contact with the urethra, they can travel into and up the urinary tract until they reach the bladder.

There are many actions and variables that can cause bacteria to enter the urinary tract, such as:

  • sex
  • catheter use
  • using certain types of birth control
  • menopause
  • blockages in the urinary tract
  • a recent urinary procedure

Can You Get a UTI From Dirty Fingers?

The hands, being the part of the body that touches the most stuff throughout the day, also tend to be the dirtiest, even if you can’t see any dirt. A report from the University of Colorado found that the average hand has 4,752 bacteria from 150 different species. Knowing that bacteria are one of the biggest causes of UTIs, it becomes clear that unclean fingers can potentially increase the risk of UTIs.

It is important to note that not every instance of touching the genitals with dirty hands will lead to a UTI. A cascade of events must first occur, including the admittance of the bacteria into the urethra and its travel through the urethra into the bladder, for a UTI to result. Despite touching dirty fingers to the genitals, the bacteria may not enter the urethra, or they might be flushed back out of the body before they can travel to the bladder (one crucial reason for urinating after sex).

That being said, having dirty fingers near your urethra increases the risk of a UTI, especially if those fingers were first near the anus, as that raises the possibility of transferring E. coli into the urethra.

To keep yourself healthy, make sure that you or your partner always wash your hands before engaging in any sexual acts involving the hands. And after you’re done, be sure to urinate to flush out any bacteria that might have made its way inside.

Can You Get a UTI From “Fingering”?

It is not common to get a UTI from fingering. This is because fingering, at its base meaning, involves someone penetrating their partner’s (or their own) vagina with their fingers. While this does pose a risk of introducing bacteria to the vagina, especially if the fingers are not cleaned before the sexual activity, it rarely turns into a UTI.

This is because the vagina does an exceptional job of cleaning itself, meaning if any bacteria is introduced to it during fingering, the vagina stands a good chance of clearing it out on its own before it can become a UTI.

It’s also worth noting that the vagina, although close to the urethra, is not the same as the urethra. This means that, even if bacteria are introduced during fingering, they are likely to be found inside the vagina and not near the urethra. The bacteria do have a chance of traveling from the vagina to the urethra, where they can then become a UTI, but the risk is minimal.  

That does not mean there is no risk associated with fingering, but it is more likely to cause an infection centered in the vagina, such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.

While fingering is less likely to cause a UTI, other elements of your sex life, such as spermicidal condoms or flavored lube, can increase UTI risk. 

What To Do If You Have a UTI?

A UTI has symptoms that can include:

  • burning or pain when urinating
  • pelvic or lower abdominal pressure
  • frequent urination

If you have any of these symptoms of a UTI, it is essential to contact your doctor. The only way to treat UTIs is with antibiotics, which require a prescription from a doctor.

Other at-home habits that you can adopt to help ease your symptoms until an antibiotic can begin taking effect include:

  • OTC pain medicine
  • drinking more fluids
  • applying a heating pad to your lower abdomen

Adopting these habits not only helps to relieve your symptoms, but it may also help the antibiotics as they clear out the infection, helping you feel better faster.

When To See a Doctor?

It is important to see a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms of a UTI. While a UTI may go away on its own in about 25%-50% of cases, in other cases, it can become a kidney infection if left untreated, which is a more complicated infection.

Symptoms of a kidney infection include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • back or side pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

It is vital to seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms.

Yet another instance in which it is important to see a doctor is if you started taking antibiotics, but your symptoms persist 3 days later. In these cases, your doctor may want to prescribe you an alternative medication that will be more effective at clearing the infection.

How Can DrHouse Help You?

If you cannot get an appointment with your primary care physician, allow DrHouse to connect you with an online doctor in just 15 minutes, no matter where you are. With DrHouse, you can talk to a board-certified doctor about your symptoms and receive an antibiotic prescription, helping you start the fight against your UTI quicker.

Key Takeaways

A UTI is most often caused by a bacterial infection of the bladder, with E. coli as the most common culprit. E. coli naturally resides around the anus, meaning anything that transfers it from the anus to the urethra may increase the risk of a UTI.

Dirty fingers are one area that most people do not consider when preventing UTIs. Still, the fact remains that the hands can hold on to a lot of bacteria (even if they don’t look dirty), and if they come into contact with your urethra, they may lead to a UTI. This risk is especially high if they were first around your anus before touching your urethra.

To protect yourself, always wash your hands before sexual activities and urinate after. If you ever notice the symptoms of a UTI, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and whether you need a prescription antibiotic to clear the infection.

Sources:

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

DrHouse

Healthcare

on your schedule

Skip the unnecessary waiting room,
see a board-certified clinician now.

Start an Online Visit
Available in 50 states. No insurance needed.

Prescriptions as needed
Renew or get a new Rx.

On-demand virtual visits
See a clinician in 15 minutes.

24/7 care support
We are here to help you.

DrHouse
  • 1

    Download the DrHouse app.
    Set up your free account in a minute.

  • 2

    Start a visit with an online doctor. Wait time is less than 15 minutes.

  • 3

    Get an Rx from your preferred pharmacy. Pick up a Rx nearby or get it delivered to you.

Download our app