Story by: Sara Thompson; Reviewed by Monalisa M. Tailor, M.D. on June 20, 2023
Treating a urinary tract infection (UTI) at home without the guidance of a medical professional is risky. While you may have had UTIs before and know what’s going on, home remedies like cranberry juice and other fluids aren’t likely to take care of the issue. It may be routine, but an infection in your urinary tract needs to be taken seriously.
Talk to a health care provider if you have the following symptoms.
Proper treatment of a UTI can quickly and easily relieve symptoms. Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics and recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Not treating a UTI or trying to treat it at home without a medical professional’s guidance can lead to serious complications such as a kidney infection and permanent kidney damage.
When treated promptly and properly, lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. Otherwise, UTIs can cause serious health issues including sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to infection.
If you think you have a UTI, talk to a health care provider first. Those with female anatomy often can get treatment via telemedicine such as Norton eCare. Those with male anatomy will need to be seen in person. Your healthcare provider may want to confirm UTI with a urine sample.
Antibiotics are typically the first line of defense against a UTI. If a patient is allergic, or if there are strong side effects with antibiotic use, or if the type of UTI bacteria is antibiotic-resistant, your doctor may have you try alternative remedies.
UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections in the U.S. People assigned female at birth are more likely to have UTIs — in fact, about 50% will have at least one in their lifetime. Around 27% of those will have recurrent UTIs, defined as more than two infections in a six-month period or three infections in a year.
Diagnosing and treating a UTI yourself risks overlooking other health issues that can be related.
Some of the often-mentioned ways to treat a UTI at home actually can be helpful in preventing a urinary tract infection.
There is some evidence that cranberry juice (or its pill version) can prevent UTIs. Look for a product that is at least 25% cranberry juice or 300 to 400 milligrams of dried cranberry extract. Check with your healthcare provider before taking cranberry juice because it can increase blood sugar.
These are the good bacteria we want in our bodies to help fight off the bad bacteria. There is some limited evidence that probiotics may help with UTIs. Probiotics are found in a variety of fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. You also can take a probiotic supplement to help prevent UTIs. “I would recommend an inexpensive probiotic supplement if you chose to go this route,” said Monalisa M. Tailor, M.D., internal medicine specialist at Norton Community Associates primary care.
Bacteria can enter the urinary tract during sexual intercourse. You should:
Urinate whenever you feel the need, because this helps flush bad bacteria out of the body. Wipe from front to back and use separate pieces of toilet paper to wipe the genitals and the anus, so no bacteria contacts the genitals.
Increasing your water intake, which increases urination, helps flush bacteria from the body. Staying hydrated is a good idea anytime, but especially when you’re more prone to UTIs.
“Many of the steps for preventing a UTI also should be used in combination with the guidance of a health care professional to treat this condition,” said Dr. Tailor. “But these tips shouldn’t be confused with treating a UTI at home. UTIs are to be taken seriously and need to be evaluated by a professional.”
Primary care, Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens clinics, Norton Immediate Care Centers and Norton eCare.
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