Caution: Treating a UTI at home

Treating and preventing urinary tract infections at home? Be careful.

Can you get rid of a urinary tract infection (UTI) without antibiotics? Research is mixed, and you’re probably better off seeing a doctor.

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.

If you think you have a UTI, talk to your doctor first. 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 for UTI.

Prevention of UTI

  1. Cranberry juice

You’ve probably heard that drinking cranberry juice helps get rid of UTIs. There is some evidence that the bright red beverage (or its pill format) can clear and prevent UTI. Look for a product that is at least 25% cranberry juice or 300 to 400 milligrams of dried cranberry extract.

  1. Consuming probiotics

These are the good bacteria we want in our bodies to help fight off the bad bacteria. Probiotics are found in a variety of fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. You also can take a probiotic supplement.

  1. Practicing good sexual hygiene

Bacteria can enter the urinary tract during sexual intercourse. You should:

  • Urinate before and immediately after sex.
  • Use a barrier, such as a condom.
  • Wash the genitals before and after sex, and if switching between anal and vaginal sex.
  1. Practicing good bathroom hygiene

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 comes into contact with the genitals.

  1. Staying hydrated

As mentioned above, frequent urination helps flush bad bacteria. So you may wish to increase your water intake if you have a UTI.

When to see a doctor for UTI

You should always see your doctor for an initial UTI diagnosis.

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Increased urgency and frequency of urination
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Low-grade fever (below 101 F)
  • Changes in the color or odor of urine, including cloudy, murky or bloody urine
  • Pressure, pain or stabbing in the lower abdomen

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