Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and travel to the bladder.
What to Expect at Home
In people with UTIs, most often the infection occurs in the bladder itself. At times, the infection can spread to the kidneys.
Common symptoms include:
- Bad urine odor
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Needing to urinate more often
- Hard to empty your bladder all the way
- Strong need to empty your bladder (urinary urgency)
These symptoms should improve soon after you begin taking antibiotics.
If you are feeling ill, have a low-grade fever, or some pain in your lower back, these symptoms will take 1 to 2 days to improve, and up to 1 week to go away completely.
Taking Your Medicines
You will be given antibiotics to be taken by mouth at home.
- You may need to take antibiotics for only 3 days, or for up to 7 to 14 days.
- You should take all of the antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you do not finish all of your antibiotics, the infection could return and may be harder to treat.
Antibiotics may rarely cause side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Report these to your health care provider. Do not just stop taking the pills.
Make sure your provider knows if you could be pregnant before starting the antibiotics.
Your provider may also give you a medicine to relieve the burning pain and urgent need to urinate.
- The most frequently used medicine will cause your urine to have an orange or red color to it when you are taking this medicine.
- You will still need to take antibiotics.
Preventing Future Urinary Tract Infections
BATHING AND HYGIENE
To prevent future UTIs, you should:
- Choose sanitary pads instead of tampons, which some doctors believe make infections more likely. Change your pad each time you use the bathroom.
- Do not douche or use feminine hygiene sprays or powders. As a general rule, do not use any product containing perfumes in the genital area.
- Take showers instead of baths. Avoid bath oils.
- Keep your genital area clean. Clean your genital and anal areas before and after sexual activity.
- Urinate before and after sexual activity. Drinking 2 glasses of water after sexual activity may help promote urination.
- Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
- Avoid tight-fitting pants. Wear cotton-cloth underwear and pantyhose, and change both at least once a day.
The following improvements to your diet may prevent future urinary tract infections:
- Drink plenty of fluids, 2 to 4 quarts (2 to 4 liters) each day.
- Do not drink fluids that irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and caffeine.
Some women have repeated bladder infections. Your provider may suggest that you:
- Use vaginal estrogen cream if you have dryness caused by menopause.
- Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact.
- Take a cranberry supplement pill after sexual contact.
- Have a 3-day course of antibiotics at home to use if you develop an infection.
- Take a single, daily dose of an antibiotic to prevent infections.
See your provider after you finish taking antibiotics to make sure that the infection is gone.
If you do not improve or you are having problems with your treatment, talk to your provider immediately.
When to Call the Doctor
Contact your provider right away if the following symptoms develop (these may be signs of a possible kidney infection.):
- Back or side pain
Also call if UTI symptoms come back shortly after you have been treated with antibiotics.
UTI - self-care; Cystitis - self-care; Bladder infection - self-care
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Nicolle LE, Drekonja D. Approach to the patient with urinary tract infection. In Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 268.
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Review Date 4/1/2023
Updated by: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.