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Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

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.

Symptoms of a UTI may include:

Children

Children with UTIs may also:

Older, frail people or people with a urinary catheter

In older, frail people, and people with a urinary catheter, symptoms of a UTI may also include:

You'll be asked about your symptoms and may need to give a urine sample.

Your doctor or nurse may offer self-care advice and recommend taking a painkiller.

They may give you a prescription for antibiotics if they think you may need them.

You may be asked to start taking these immediately, or to wait to see if your symptoms improve.

It's important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better.

Treatment from a GP for UTIs that keep coming back

If your UTI comes back after treatment, you may have a urine test and be prescribed different antibiotics.

Your doctor or nurse will also offer advice on how to prevent UTIs.

If you keep getting UTIs and regularly need treatment, a GP may give you a repeat prescription for antibiotics.

If you have been through the menopause, you may be offered a vaginal cream containing oestrogen.

To help ease pain:

It's important to follow the instructions on the packet so you know how much paracetamol you or your child can take, and how often.

It may also help to avoid having sex until you feel better.

You cannot pass a UTI on to your partner, but sex may be uncomfortable.

Taking cystitis sachets or cranberry products has not been shown to help ease symptoms of UTIs.

You can ask a pharmacist about treatments for a UTI. A pharmacist can:

Some pharmacies offer a UTI management service and can prescribe antibiotics if they're needed.

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:

There are some things you can try to help prevent UTIs returning.

Do

  • 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

Don't

  • 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 diaphragms with spermicidal lube on them – try non-spermicidal lube or a different type of contraception

If you have more than 3 UTIs in 1 year, or 2 UTIs in 6 months, there are other things that may help prevent UTIs.

There is some evidence that women under 65 years old who keep getting UTIs may find it helpful to take:

  • a supplement called D-mannose – this is not recommended for pregnant women
  • cranberry products, such as juice or tablets

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.