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Treating a urinary tract infection

If you are looking after an adult who has had a urinary tract infection
because they have difficulty taking care of their own wellbeing, Carers
Direct may be able to help you. On Carers Direct 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.
Your treatment will depend on whether your infection is in the upper or
lower urinary tract.
A lower urinary tract (UTI) infection can usually be treated at home using
antibiotics, and so can a mild to moderate upper UTI. If an upper UTI is
more serious, or you are also at increased risk of complications, you’ll
need hospital treatment.
Treatment at home for a lower UTI
If you have a lower UTI that needs treating, your GP will prescribe a course of
antibiotics for up to a week. How long you take the antibiotics for will depend on
whether you have a higher risk of developing complications; for example if you have
The antibiotic that’s usually used to treat lower UTIs is trimethoprim. It's
uncommon to get side effects, and if you do they are usually mild. They include:
nausea (feeling sick)
vomiting (being sick)
skin rash
itchy skin
You can use over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen,
to help with any pain from the UTI.
Treatment at home for an upper UTI
If you have an upper UTI, the treatment usually involves taking antibiotics for seven to 14 days. Again, how
long you take the antibiotics for will depend on your risk of developing complications.
You’ll usually be given antibiotics called co-amoxiclav or ciprofloxacin, unless you’re pregnant. If you’re
pregnant, you’ll probably be given an antibiotic called cefalexin instead, which is safe to use in pregnancy.
These antibiotics can make you feel drowsy, so avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when you’re taking
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, as this will help to relieve any symptoms of fever and prevent
You can use paracetamol to help with any symptoms of an upper UTI, but don’t use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. This is because NSAIDs can increase the risk of developing kidney
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 (being sick)
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 to 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 that 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:
skin rashes
itchy skin
Methenamine hippurate isn’t as effective as antibiotics in preventing the infection from returning. Because of
this, it tends to be used only when people can’t or won’t take antibiotics.
1. There are also some lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce the risk of getting a UTI. Find out more
about how you can prevent UTIs.