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Can I Get Over the Counter UTI Medicine?
March 16, 2023
Read Time - 10 minutes
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OTC Medicine Options for UTIs

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are unfortunately both very painful and very common. Doctors treat about 8 million cases of UTIs each year. According to the American Urological Association, UTIs are the second most common form of infection in the body. Nearly 20% of women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives.

UTIs require medical treatment. Antibiotics are the standard treatment for urinary tract infections, as they combat the source of the infection. But are there over-the-counter (OTC) options for this bacterial infection? Is there a way to treat a UTI without a doctor visit? In this article, we will break down what a UTI is, what treatment is needed and what your over-the-counter options are.

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 bacterium mostly causes 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.

UTI Symptoms

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 problems such as recurrent urinary tract infections, kidney infections and disease, and sepsis–a potentially life-threatening medical emergency. Because of this, it is important that you undergo treatment for a urinary tract infection as soon as you begin to feel symptoms.

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.

How is a UTI treated?

A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urinary system. Because it is caused by bacteria, a course of antibiotics is needed to properly treat the infection. These antibacterial medications combat existing infections while preventing the spread of bacteria to other parts of the body.

Common antibiotic treatment options for UTIs include:

These antibiotics reduce UTI pain while preventing the infection from becoming any worse. This will shorten the overall infection time and help your body heal quickly. With antibiotic treatment, most uncomplicated UTIs will go away in a matter of days.

Antibiotics have been shown to cause some mild side effects. These include 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.

Can I treat a UTI without antibiotics?

Despite the potential side effects, health care professionals recognize antibiotic medication as the standard UTI treatment. These infections will not go away on their own, and will not be adequately treated by pain relievers or over-the-counter options.

Treating an infection completely will reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs and more serious complications. Antibacterial medication is required to kill harmful bacteria and prevent their spread to the kidneys and other organs. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any form of oral antibiotic medication for over-the-counter use. That means all antibiotic drugs that are used for the treatment of UTIs must be procured via prescription. Read more about OTC antibiotics and antibiotic prescriptions here.

Online UTI prescriptions

If you have begun to notice the early signs of a UTI and are unable to see a doctor, don’t worry. There are ways to get antibiotics without seeing a doctor. Simply book an online UTI prescription visit on Sesame to discuss your symptoms with a health care provider over video. 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.

What is the best OTC medicine for a UTI?

As detailed above, prescription antibiotic medication is needed to completely treat a UTI. These drugs kill harmful bacteria in the body and prevent their spread. This reduces the risk of complications and recurring infections. After a day or two, you should begin to feel better. Keep taking the full course of antibiotic medicine, even after you start to notice symptoms subsiding.

You may be wondering if there are any over-the-counter treatment options available. OTC drugs can certainly help with pain relief and prevention, but they will not adequately treat the infection. Get medical advice from a licensed health care provider before starting any at-home remedies.

OTC medicine used for pain relief includes:

  • Phenazopyridine hydrochloride (generic for Azo Urinary Pain Relief and Pyridium): Phenazopyridine is a dye medication that helps relieve UTI pain when you urinate. Azo and Pyridium–which feature phenazopyridine as an active ingredient–are urinary pain relief tablets that work within 20 minutes and can be taken multiple times daily to help reduce uncomfortable symptoms. This drug can discolor your urine and stain your clothes.

  • Cystex: Cystex–a brand name–contains methenamine and sodium salicylate. Cystex, like the drugs listed above, helps minimize painful symptoms caused by a UTI. It does not cure an existing infection but can mitigate pain while urinating.

  • Acetaminophen/ ibuprofen: These general pain relievers are used to reduce inflammation and pain in diverse areas of the body. They can be used to treat the cramping and burning symptoms associated with UTIs.

OTC medicine used for UTI prevention:

It should be noted that there is little medical evidence that supplements and preventative measures listed below can help prevent UTIs.

  • Cranberry juice: Cranberry juice and cranberry products are widely believed to help prevent recurrent UTIs. This claim, however, is not backed up by evidence. Drinking extra fluids does help reduce UTI symptoms, and is often ordered along with antibiotic treatment by doctors. In other words, cranberry juice does not help UTI symptoms in and of itself, but the increase in fluid ingestion can provide additional help while you’re taking antibiotics.

  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live yeast and bacteria supplements that naturally occur in our digestive tract. While these supplements will not help cure a UTI, they may help with digestion and overall wellness.

If you begin to notice signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you should procure a prescription for antibiotic treatment as soon as possible. Prescription antibiotics are the only way to treat a UTI and prevent further complications like kidney disease. Sesame offers convenient and affordable UTI video appointments so you can discuss your condition with a licensed health care provider right away. If you’re looking for some pain relief in the meantime, use our OTC medicine list above to help find what you’re looking for. Most OTC pain relief products are widely available at pharmacies. These drugs will not cure a UTI, but they can help you start feeling better before you start antibiotic treatment.

Virtual UTI visit

Talk to a doctor or clinician about your UTI symptoms. Get a prescription, if recommended. Pick up from a pharmacy of your choice. Yep, it's that simple.
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Medical disclaimer

Sesame content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern, it is critical to seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions. If you are facing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room immediately.