An urgent need to go, a burning sensation when you do - ouch, the awful signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI). If you're a woman, you might recognize those symptoms, since about half of all females will have at least one UTI in her life. And about 1 in 4 women will have recurrent UTIs (2 or more UTIs in 6 months).

Other UTI symptoms may accompany burning, urgent urination: cloudy urine, pain or pressure in the areas of the pelvis and lower abdomen or back, and a low-grade fever. In most cases, a UTI is caused by a type of bacteria called E. coli. The bacteria normally live in the digestive tract but can cause infection if they make their way into the urinary tract. A woman may be more vulnerable to UTIs because her urethra (the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body) is shorter than a man's. Children can also get UTIs.

While your body does its best to fend off infection, you may be able to give it a bacteria-fighting boost by trying these 7 tips. While there is no solid evidence to prove that these tips reduce the risk of a UTI, it doesn't hurt to try them.

Flush out bacteria. Drink plenty of fluids. The usual 6 to 8 glasses of water will do, but cut back on caffeine and alcohol, which can irritate the bladder. Heed the call of nature and urinate when you first feel the urge. If you leave the loo trip till later, you risk bacteria growth. Also, urinate soon after sex to clear out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra.

Practice good toilet hygiene. As mentioned, go when you've got to. And after you're done, always wipe from front to back to keep from pushing bacteria nearer to your urethra. This is especially important after a bowel movement. If you have young children, remind them of the importance of proper wiping and check in on how frequently they visit the bathroom. Constipation has been linked to UTIs in children, so make sure you get to the root of any causes of constipation.

Create an environment inhospitable to bacteria. Cranberry, long lauded as a UTI-fighting fruit, actually changes the surface of E. coli bacteria so that it cannot bind to the urinary tract. If it can't take hold, your body has more time and opportunity to flush it out of your system before it has a chance to grow in large amounts. Try cranberry juice or tablets, but check with your doctor because cranberry may not be good for those with a history of kidney stones or for those on blood-thinners.

Protect your urethra. Although they haven't been conclusively linked to raising UTI risk, bubble bath and bath oils, perfumed products used on or near the genitals, and poor hygiene can irritate the urethra. Some doctors suggest switching from tampons to sanitary pads, since tampons may give bacteria more opportunity to enter the body and irritate the urethra.

Maintain balanced flora. A woman's vaginal area contains naturally protective bacteria to fend off infection. If the balance of this so-called "vaginal flora" is upset, harmful bacteria may flourish and a woman's UTI risk may increase. Feminine hygiene products, including douches, sprays, and powders, may upset this balance. On the other hand, consuming probiotic bacteria, found in fermented milk products like yogurt, may promote the balance and reduce recurrent infection risk.

Be intelligent about intimacy. Sexual intercourse can also irritate the urethra and may be one of the reasons that sexually active women are more prone to UTIs. Always urinate soon after intercourse to clear out any bacteria that has been introduced to the body and may reach the urethra. A woman's contraceptive choice could affect her risk of UTIs. A diaphragm may compress the urethra and make it hard to empty the bladder. Urine that lingers too long in the bladder may gather more bacteria. And use of spermicides may also trigger bacteria growth by upsetting the natural balance of the vagina.

Dress for prevention. Breathable fabrics and loose-fitting clothing allow a woman's vaginal area to stay dry, a deterrent to bacteria growth. Skip the skin-tight jeans and opt for natural fibre underwear, and don't lounge around in a wet swimsuit. Also, wash intimates using a mild detergent.

Seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms of a UTI, as antibiotic treatment may be required to clear up infection and prevent complications.