5 tips to get rid of a urinary tract infection fast
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are highly common and uncomfortable bacterial infections. Nearly one-half of all women will deal with a UTI at some point in their lives, as will 12% of men. UTIs are the second most common form of infection in the body and are singularly responsible for about 8 million doctor visits every year. While these infections are easily treatable, they can cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms. When left untreated, they can lead to serious medical complications such as kidney disease and sepsis—a potentially life-threatening medical emergency.
If you’re experiencing symptoms or early warning signs of a UTI, read on. We’ve put together some quick facts about UTIs, as well as 5 tips to get rid of one fast.
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is a highly common form of bacterial infection that occurs in any part of the urinary system. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract and begin to spread to the bladder and urethra.
The E. coli bacteria is the most common cause of bladder infections. Your body has natural defenses against E. coli, but sometimes these defenses fail and the bacteria is allowed to overpopulate and spread. Infections of the urethra can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Women are at greater risk for UTIs than men due to their anatomy. The urethra is closer to the anus in women than it is in men. This makes it more likely that harmful bacteria will spread from the anus to the urinary system.
How do you know if you have a UTI?
Urinary tract infections do cause symptoms similar to other infections in the body, such as a bladder infection. If you begin to notice any of the symptoms listed here, talk to a health care professional right away. Early treatment of UTIs can help reduce symptoms and prevent further complications.
Not all cases of urinary tract infections cause symptoms. However, most do.
Common UTI symptoms include:
- A strong and persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation while urinating
- Peeing in little amounts, but frequently
- Cloudy or hazy urine
- If your urine is scarlet, bright pink, or cola-colored, this is an indication that there is blood in it
- Strong smelling urine
- Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen
When properly treated, UTIs are easily cured and do not cause complications. If left untreated, however, these infections can lead to a host of medical conditions such as recurrent UTIs, kidney infections (pyelonephritis), kidney disease, and sepsis–a potentially life-threatening medical emergency. Because of this, you must undergo treatment for a urinary tract infection as soon as you begin to feel symptoms.
The vast majority of urinary tract infections are caused by bacterial infections. While most cases of UTIs do not constitute a medical emergency, they can lead to complications if left untreated. Additionally, the fastest way to cure a UTI is through a course of antibiotic medication. Antibiotic drugs will kill harmful bacteria, which will reduce symptoms quickly and prevent the infection from worsening.
UTIs are diagnosed via a urinalysis test. These UTI tests check for certain substances in the urine that indicate infection. They are commonly performed at a doctor’s office or a medical facility (such as a urology clinic).
Once your provider can determine that you are experiencing a urinary tract infection, they can prescribe antibiotic UTI treatment.
Common antibiotic medications used for UTI treatment include:
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid)
- Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim)
These antibiotics reduce UTI symptoms while preventing the infection from becoming any worse. With antibiotic treatment, most uncomplicated UTIs will go away in a matter of days. You should start feeling better within a day or two of taking the medication.
These drugs have been shown to cause some mild side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, and skin rash. If these symptoms become severe, or if your UTI doesn’t start feeling better after a few days of antibiotic treatment, talk to a health care provider right away.
If going to a clinic or provider’s office isn’t an option for you, Sesame offers convenient and affordable video UTI visits with licensed health care providers across the country. During a video UTI visit, you will discuss your symptoms and medical history with a provider on Sesame’s video platform.
If appropriate, providers on Sesame can write prescriptions for antibiotic medication to be delivered to your home or picked up the same day at your local pharmacy. These prescriptions often cost 60% less than a prescription given through an insurance network. Book an online visit on Sesame for quick, affordable and convenient care right away.
Drink plenty of water to help flush harmful bacteria from the urinary tract. The longer that urine hangs out in the bladder, the more bacteria can populate and worsen an existing infection. This simple home remedy can also help dilute the urine in your bladder, reducing symptoms of burning and stinging.
Not only can drinking plenty of water help flush bacteria from the urinary system and speed up recovery time, but adequate hydration can also help prevent UTIs from occurring in the first place. Frequent urination helps clear the bladder and urinary tract of harmful pathogens, making infection less likely to occur. You can also use cranberry supplements and unsweetened cranberry juice to prevent infection. Cranberry products have diuretic properties and may make you need to urinate more. More frequent urination means the bladder is flushed more often. It should be noted that cranberry juice and cranberry products are not approved as adequate treatment for an existing UTI. These supplements should be used as a preventative measure, not as therapy for infection.
While drinking plenty of water, you should avoid beverages that act as irritants to the urinary tract such as carbonated drinks, alcohol and caffeine. These drinks will not worsen the infection, but they can make your symptoms more pronounced. Stick with water until you have noticed that symptoms have been significantly reduced or eliminated.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used in conjunction with antibiotic medications to relieve painful symptoms caused by a UTI. These drugs can also help reduce lower back pain and pelvic pain that may occur as a result of a urinary tract infection.
These drugs carry some risk of side effects such as nausea and heartburn, but these reactions are generally short-lived and mild in severity. Talk to your doctor if you experience persistent side effects while taking OTC medication, or if an adverse reaction becomes severe.
It’s important to note that while OTC pain medications can help temporarily reduce symptoms caused by a UTI, they do not treat the underlying cause of the symptoms (the infection itself). You should not use OTC pain relievers as a treatment for UTIs. Instead, they should be used to supplement a course of antibiotic medicine.
While good hygiene is more of a preventative measure than a treatment for UTIs, keeping the genital area clean while maintaining a healthy lifestyle can keep the infection from getting worse. Avoid using diaphragms, vaginal sponges and sex toys if you are at high risk of UTIs. Additionally, do not use douches or harsh scented cleansers on the genital area as these can irritate the vagina and increase the likelihood of developing a UTI.
Women should always wipe front to back to avoid bacteria from the anus coming into contact with the vaginal area. It’s also always a good idea to empty the bladder after sexual intercourse, as sex (especially with spermicidal lubricant) is a risk factor for the development of UTIs.
A course of antibiotic medication is the only surefire and FDA-approved method of treating a urinary tract infection. However, like good hygiene, practicing self-care can help reduce symptoms and possibly prevent recurrent infections.
If you are managing a current infection, it is recommended that you take a sick day to let your body rest and recover as it fights off harmful bacteria. While UTIs don’t present any danger of spread in the workplace (they cannot be transmitted through toilet seats), taking it easy can help your immune system maintain the energy it needs to deal with the infection.
You can also take vitamin C to help boost the function of your immune system. Vitamin C also neutralizes the acidity of urine, which can reduce the painful symptoms of UTIs. There is no evidence to suggest that vitamin C will help cure an existing infection or minimize healing time, but it can aid your immune system against illness while helping to soothe symptoms.
The only way to completely get rid of a UTI fast is through antibiotic treatment prescribed by a licensed health care provider. While home remedies such as vitamin C and cranberry products may help reduce symptoms, medication is needed to neutralize harmful bacteria and prevent further complications. Looking to talk to a health care provider now? Book a video UTI visit on Sesame right away to discuss your symptoms with a clinician, all from the comfort of your home. When appropriate, providers on Sesame can write prescriptions and arrange for the medicine to be delivered to your home or ready for same-day pickup at a pharmacy of your choice. Don’t wait to get the care you need.
- Urinary tract infections: epidemiology, mechanisms of infection and treatment options. Flores-Mireles, A. L., Walker, J. N., Caparon, M., & Hultgren, S. J. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4457377/
- Management of urinary tract infection in women: A practical approach for everyday practice. Abou Heidar, N. F., Degheili, J. A., Yacoubian, A. A., & Khauli, R. B. (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6798292/
- Treatment for Bladder Infection in Adults. NIDDK. (2017). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/treatment.