Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect your urinary tract, including your bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis) or kidneys (kidney infection). UTIs may be treated with antibiotics, but they're not always needed.
Check if it's a urinary tract infection (UTI)
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) may include:
- pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
- needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
- pee that looks cloudy, dark or has a strong smell
- needing to pee suddenly or more urgently than usual
- needing to pee more often than usual
- blood in your pee
- lower tummy pain or pain in your back, just under the ribs
- a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
- a very low temperature below 36C
Children with UTIs may also:
- have a high temperature – your child is feeling hotter than usual if you touch their neck, back or tummy
- appear generally unwell – babies and young children may be irritable and not feed or eat properly
- wet the bed or wet themselves
- be sick
Older, frail people or people with a urinary catheter
In older, frail people who have problems with memory, learning and concentration (such as dementia), and people with a urinary catheter, symptoms of a UTI may also include:
- changes in behaviour, such as acting agitated or confused (delirium)
- wetting themselves (incontinence) that is worse than usual
- new shivering or shaking (rigors)
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) for the first time
- your child has symptoms of a UTI
- you're a man with symptoms of a UTI
- you're pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI
- you're caring for an older, frail person who may have symptoms of a UTI
- you have symptoms of a UTI after surgery
- your symptoms get worse or do not improve within 2 days
- your symptoms come back after treatment
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:
You think you, your child or someone you care for may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) and:
- have a very high temperature, or feel hot and shivery
- have a very low temperature below 36C
- are confused or drowsy
- have pain in the lower tummy or in the back, just under the ribs
- can see blood in your pee
These symptoms could mean you have a kidney infection, which can be serious if it's not treated as it could cause sepsis.
If you cannot speak to or see a GP, or your symptoms are getting worse, call 111 or get help from 111 online.
Treatment from a GP
If a GP thinks you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI), they may do a urine test, although this is not always needed.
A GP may also:
- offer self-care advice and recommend taking a painkiller
- give you a prescription for a short course of antibiotics
- give you a prescription for antibiotics, but suggest you wait for 48 hours before taking them in case your symptoms go away on their own
It's important to take all the medicine you're prescribed, even if you start to feel better.
Treatment for UTIs that keep coming back
If your UTI comes back after treatment, or you have 2 UTIs in 6 months, a GP may:
- prescribe a different antibiotic or prescribe a low-dose antibiotic to take for up to 6 months
- prescribe a vaginal cream containing oestrogen, if you have gone through the menopause
- refer you to a specialist for further tests and treatments
In some people, short-term antibiotics for a UTI do not work and urine tests do not show an infection, even though you have UTI symptoms.
This might mean you have a chronic (long-term) UTI. This can be caused by bacteria entering the lining of the bladder.
Because urine tests do not always pick up the infection and the symptoms can be similar to other conditions, chronic UTIs can be hard to diagnose.
Chronic UTIs are also treated with antibiotics, which you may have to take for a long time.
Chronic UTIs can have a big impact on your quality of life. If you have been treated for a UTI but it keeps coming back, speak to your GP about chronic UTIs and ask to be referred to a specialist.
Things you can do yourself
To help ease symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI):
- take paracetamol up to 4 times a day to reduce pain and a high temperature – for people with a UTI, paracetamol is usually recommended over NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin
- you can give children liquid paracetamol
- rest and drink enough fluids so you pass pale urine regularly during the day
- avoid having sex
Some people take cystitis sachets or cranberry drinks and products every day to prevent UTIs from happening, which may help. But there's no evidence they help ease symptoms or treat a UTI if the infection has already started.
A pharmacist can help with UTIs
You can ask a pharmacist about treatments for a UTI.
A pharmacist can:
- offer advice on things that can help you get better
- suggest the best painkiller to take
- tell you if you need to see a GP about your symptoms
Some pharmacies offer a UTI management service. They may be able to give antibiotics if they're needed.
Causes of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are usually caused by bacteria from poo entering the urinary tract.
The bacteria enter through the tube that carries pee out of the body (urethra).
Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.
Things that increase the risk of bacteria getting into the bladder include:
- having sex
- conditions that block the urinary tract – such as kidney stones
- conditions that make it difficult to fully empty the bladder – such as an enlarged prostate in men and constipation in children
- urinary catheters (a tube in your bladder used to drain urine)
- having a weakened immune system – for example, people with diabetes or people having chemotherapy
- not drinking enough fluids
- not keeping the genital area clean and dry
How to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
There are some things you can try to help prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) happening or prevent it returning.
wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet
keep the genital area clean and dry
drink plenty of fluids, particularly water – so that you regularly pee during the day and do not feel thirsty
wash the skin around the vagina with water before and after sex
pee as soon as possible after sex
promptly change nappies or incontinence pads if they're soiled
do not use scented soap
do not hold your pee in if you feel the urge to go
do not rush when going for a pee – try to fully empty your bladder
do not wear tight synthetic underwear, such as nylon
do not drink lots of alcoholic drinks, as they may irritate your bladder
do not have lots of sugary food or drinks, as they may encourage bacteria to grow
do not use condoms or a diaphragm or cap with spermicidal lube on them – try non-spermicidal lube or a different type of contraception
Other ways to prevent some UTIs coming back
If you keep getting a bladder infection (cystitis), there's some evidence it may be helpful to take:
- D-mannose – a sugar you can buy as a powder or tablets to take every day
- cranberry products – available as juice, tablets or capsules to take every day
Speak to your doctor before taking any of these during pregnancy.
Be aware that D-mannose and cranberry products can contain a lot of sugar.
If you're taking warfarin, you should avoid cranberry products.
Page last reviewed: 22 March 2022
Next review due: 22 March 2025
- Sexually transmitted infections. Gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis), and mycoplasma (Mycoplasma genitalium) are common causes of sexually transmitted infections. ...
- Vaginitis. ...
- Pregnancy. ...
- Prostatitis. ...
- Kidney stones. ...
Simple bladder infections may go away on their own in about a week — even without antibiotics. If you don't have any symptoms of a kidney infection and you aren't pregnant or at high risk of developing complicated UTI, you may opt for a “wait-and-see” approach to antibiotic treatment.What is considered too many UTIs? ›
A bladder infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI). You might have chronic, or recurrent, bladder infections if you have two or more bladder infections in six months or three or more infections in a year.Why am I getting so many UTIs? ›
Recurrent UTIs (RUTI) are mainly caused by reinfection by the same pathogen. Having frequent sexual intercourse is one of the greatest risk factors for RUTIs. In a subgroup of individuals with coexisting morbid conditions, complicated RUTIs can lead to upper tract infections or urosepsis.What feels like a UTI but isn't UTI? ›
Interstitial Cystitis (IC) or Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS) or IC/BPS is an issue of long-term bladder pain. It may feel like a bladder or urinary tract infection, but it's not. It is a feeling of discomfort and pressure in the bladder area that lasts for six weeks or more with no infection or other clear cause.Is it a UTI or could it be something else? ›
UTI or Something Else? Although burning during urination is a telltale sign of a UTI, it can also be a symptom of a number of other problems such as a vaginal yeast infection or certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.What is the strongest natural antibiotic for UTI? ›
If you are wondering, “what is the best natural antibiotic for UTI?”, oregano oil is your answer. Known for its powerful antibacterial properties, oregano oil has been shown (8) to kill off E. coli - the same bacteria that causes the majority of UTI cases. You can find oregano oil in capsule form and take it daily.How much water does it take to flush out a UTI? ›
During the infection — and after — make sure to drink a lot of water, at least 12 8-ounce cups per day. This will flush out your system and help prevent future infections. If you feel like you've got to go, GO! Don't hold it, as this simply delays getting rid of more bacteria.What happens if UTI is left untreated for 2 weeks? ›
If your UTI goes untreated, it may progress into a more serious infection. “An untreated bladder infection can become a kidney or prostate infection. These infections are more serious, because they can travel through the blood stream causing sepsis. Sepsis makes people very ill and can even be critical,” Dr.What will a urologist do for recurrent UTIs? ›
For a recurrent UTI, your doctor may prescribe a long-term course of antibiotics to be taken at a low dosage. If sexual activity is deemed to be the cause of your recurrent UTI, your doctor might recommend that you take an antibiotic after having sex.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. This helps keep bladder tissue hydrated and healthy. ...
- Empty your bladder often. ...
- Urinate soon after sex. ...
- Take cranberry supplements. ...
- Wipe front to back.
The likely reason for the woman's bladder infection is rubbing during sex that can irritate the opening of her urethra and make it even easier for bacteria to enter. You can help your partner avoid bladder infections by changing sexual positions to minimize irritation.Can a UTI be caused from stress? ›
If you suffer from high stress levels or anxiety, you might also develop a urinary tract infection. Can stress cause a UTI? Not directly. However, stress can increase your cortisol levels, which can affect your immune system and make you more prone to infections.How to tell the difference between UTI and interstitial cystitis? ›
The Difference Between a UTI and IC
In women who have interstitial cystitis, urine culture results will be negative, meaning that no bacteria are found in the urine as with a urinary tract infection. With IC, women may also experience pain during sexual intercourse, another symptom not commonly associated with a UTI.
The most reliable sign of a UTI is a stinging or burning sensation with urination, though other symptoms may also occur. A bladder infection is a type of UTI that occurs specifically in your bladder. Think of it this way: Your urinary tract includes your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys.What could a UTI also be? ›
Infection of the urethra.
This type of UTI can happen when GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. An infection of the urethra can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections. They include herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mycoplasma. This can happen because women's urethras are close to the vagina.
If your urine culture shows you don't have a UTI, you'll need further testing to find out the cause of your symptoms.” In rare cases, a person with symptoms similar to a UTI, but with repeated negative cultures (meaning they don't show a bacterial infection) may in fact have bladder cancer.