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:
- pain or a burning sensation when peeing (dysuria)
- needing to pee more often than usual during the night (nocturia)
- pee that looks cloudy
- 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 may be irritable and not feed properly
- wet the bed or wet themselves
- be sick
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:
- changes in behaviour, such as acting confused or agitated
- wetting themselves (incontinence) that is worse than usual
- new shivering or shaking (rigors)
What happens at your appointment
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:
- 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, especially during hot weather
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.
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 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:
- 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 gland 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 UTIs 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 diaphragms with spermicidal lube on them – try non-spermicidal lube or a different type of contraception
Other ways to prevent recurring UTIs
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.