Cystitis - Treatment 

Treating cystitis 

The symptoms of mild cystitis usually clear up without treatment within a few days.

Children and men should always see their GP if they have cystitis symptoms. Women should always see their GP the first time they have cystitis symptoms, and also if they have the condition more than three times in one year.

There are some self-help treatments that can ease the discomfort of any symptoms, or your GP may prescribe antibiotics.

Self-help treatments

If you've had cystitis before and you're sure that you have mild cystitis and don't need to see your GP, there are treatments that you can try yourself.

  • over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can reduce pain and discomfort – always read the information leaflet and check with your pharmacist first, particularly if you have another medical condition, if you are taking other medicines, or you're pregnant or breastfeeding
  • drinking plenty of water is often recommended as a treatment for cystitis – there's no evidence that this is helpful, but drinking plenty of water is generally good for your health; also avoid alcohol
  • don't have sex until your cystitis has cleared up because having sex can make it worse

Some people find that using urine alkanising agents, such as sodium bicarbonate or potassium citrate, for a short period of time may help relieve pain when urinating.

However, there is currently a lack of clinical evidence for their effectiveness. Check with your GP or pharmacist first if you are taking any other medication.

Find out some useful tips on preventing cystitis.


If your symptoms are severe, your GP may prescribe a short course of antibiotics. This will usually involve taking a tablet two to four times a day for three days.

For more complicated cases of cystitis, such as cystitis with another underlying infection, you may be given antibiotics for 5 to 10 days. Find out more about cystitis complications.

Research suggests that antibiotics can shorten an attack of cystitis by one to two days.

If you have mild cystitis, your GP may prefer not to prescribe antibiotics to avoid antibiotic resistance. This is when the bacteria adapt and learn to survive the antibiotics. Over time, this means that the treatment becomes less effective.

Recurring cystitis

If you keep getting cystitis (known as recurring cystitis) your doctor may prescribe stand-by antibiotics or continuous antibiotics. A stand-by antibiotic is a prescription for you to take the next time you have cystitis without needing to visit your GP again.

Continuous antibiotics are antibiotics that you take for several months to prevent further episodes of cystitis. These may be prescribed if:

  • cystitis usually occurs after having sex – you may be given a prescription for antibiotics to take within two hours of having sex
  • cystitis is not related to having sex – you may be given a low-dose antibiotic to take for a trial period of six months

If you are prescribed antibiotics, your symptoms should start to improve after the first day of taking them. If your symptoms don't improve after your course of antibiotics, go back to see your GP or call NHS 111.

Page last reviewed: 07/11/2013

Next review due: 07/11/2015


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The 7 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Littleegg said on 04 September 2014

I've suffered with this condition since I was a tiny girl, painful, hated going to the toilet and wet the bed a lot. When I became a sexually active woman I suffered most times after sex and my doctor prescribed me antibiotics I could take the morning after. This was helpful but no cure I eventually underwent an operation as the antibiotics over the years left me with no immune system and had my urethra stretched and swilled ... Not sure that's technically correct ?! However been UTI free for many years. I'm on this site tonight as I held my bladder for many hours yesterday due to meetings and then went for a run and the old symptoms are back ... Constant pee feeling and painful at the end interrupted my run 3 times really hoping I can naturally sort this #notgood ;((

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AmylovesCamping said on 27 July 2014

Hi I get really bad cystitis every single time I have sex or oral sex or any touching there. I'll be ill then for at least a week and I find the only thing that helps is a small hot water bottle down there, I tuck it behind my belt if I need to go out but it helps. I get crippling pain and when I have a really bad one I physically can't lift my legs to walk or anything, I wet myself continuously when I'm really ill with it, so I sit in a big bowl and pee when ever I have to I hanvn't got any other advice but just let it out when you have to and the hotwater bottle will sooth it a little

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Stephanananie said on 25 October 2013

Cammomile tea, nice and strong, once I peed it out I felt better. Asparagus had a similar effect. I think it takes away the acidity in your water.
I completely avoid ginger, ginger beer, alcohol, coffee, tea orange, lemon and refined sugar. Also, don't let yourself get cold or too warm. Try and relax, tension makes it worse too. So eat some salmon, or other happy hormone

Don't be afraid to pee, follow doctors advice and drink lots. Don't avoid fluids. Just my opinion, but I never had severe pain, but have been in strong discomfort.

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Equilibria said on 21 July 2012

I've had lower back pain all week, and this evening started with very painful urination and passing blood. I saw the GP who prescribed antibiotics. I also took an alkanising agent (Cystopurin which is Potassium Citrate) and the dreadful burning pain disappeared within 2 hours. As others have said, it may not cure the cystitis, but it certainly eases the pain very effectively and quickly.

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scottishheart said on 10 July 2012

i have had ic since November 2012and to be honest its making life so hard for me , i am a man age 50 and its just a constant sting in my penis , i have tried all sorts of antibiotics and pills is there a home remedy ? or something to get rid of this sting ? thanks

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Fairy81 said on 28 May 2012

I've had reccurrent cystitis for, ooooh, 15 years so I've tried pretty much everything going to combat it. The only things that really work are antibiotics unfortunately.
Bicarb of soda works for the symptoms, but not as a cure. It at the very least enables me to go to work as normal because who can afford to be off work for one week every month?! My GP recommended that I didn't take the Bicarb' within an hour of antibiotics, just incase it caused a stomach upset, but this has never been an issue.
If I don't take it, or an over the counter alternative like Cymalon or Cystopurin, I find the infection gets a lot worse a lot quicker. It seems to buy me some time between the symptoms beginning and getting my anti biotics from my GP.
My other tips are to pour cool water over yourself when you wee, it helps stop that horrendous stinging sensation. Cranberry tablets also help, I hate cranberry juice, so they're a good alternative if taken with lots of water.
Cool baths, hot water bottles and ibruprofen also help.
AVOID: Fruit juices, alcohol, excess sugar, acidic foods, coffee and tea (caffeine is a dieuretic which will naturally make you wee more, last thing you need!).

I hope this is useful.

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RobynBobbin said on 30 November 2011

I often find that bicarbonate of soda actually is a very good treatment. - Not a cure but it eases the pain.

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