Treating a urinary tract infection 

Your treatment will depend on whether your infection is in the upper or lower urinary tract.

Both types of urinary tract (UTI) infection can usually be treated at home using a course of antibiotics.

If an upper UTI is more serious or you are also at increased risk of complications, you'll need hospital treatment.

Self-help

You can also use over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol to help with any pain.

However, if you have an upper UTI, don't use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. These types of drugs can increase the risk of you developing kidney complications.

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, as this will help to relieve any symptoms of fever and prevent dehydration.

Hospital treatment for a UTI

You may need to go into hospital to be treated for an upper urinary tract infection if you: 

  • are pregnant
  • are over 60 years old
  • have severe vomiting
  • have severe pain 
  • are dehydrated
  • can't pass urine, or you're passing smaller amounts of urine than usual
  • have a blockage in your kidneys, such as a kidney stone
  • have diabetes
  • have been having chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • have a history of kidney disease
  • have a history of recurring upper UTIs
  • have HIV
  • have sickle cell anaemia
  • have cancer

If you're admitted to hospital with an upper UTI, you'll probably have a drip put in your arm to give you fluids. This is to help keep you hydrated. You can also be given antibiotics through the drip.

You'll have regular blood and urine tests to monitor your health and see how well the antibiotics are fighting off the infection.

Most people who are treated for an upper UTI respond well to treatment and can leave hospital within three to seven days.

Recurring UTIs

Unfortunately, some people keep getting UTIs. This is called having recurring UTIs.

Recurring UTIs can happen because the urethra gets irritated after having sex. If it's thought this might be the cause of your recurring UTIs, you may be given antibiotic tablets to take after each time you have sex.

Using a diaphragm for contraception or using condoms coated with spermicide can increase the risk of getting a UTI. Find out more about diaphragms, condoms and UTIs in preventing UTIs.

If your recurring UTIs are not thought to be linked to having sex, you may be given a low-dose antibiotic to take every day.

If you can't take antibiotics

Taking methenamine hippurate is an alternative to antibiotics. Methenamine hippurate works by changing the chemical composition of your urine, making it "less attractive" to bacteria.

Side effects of methenamine hippurate are uncommon. However, they can include: 

Methenamine hippurate isn't as effective as antibiotics in preventing the infection returning. Because of this, it tends to be used only when people can't or won't take antibiotics.

There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk of getting a UTI. Find out more about how you can prevent UTIs.

Carers

If you are looking after an adult who has had a urinary tract infection because they have difficulty taking care of their own wellbeing, Care and support may be able to help you.

On Care and support, you can find out all about how to get help with caring for the person you look after, your legal and employment rights, and getting benefits.

Page last reviewed: 17/07/2014

Next review due: 17/07/2016