What to do while your antibiotics start going to work.
What can I do while taking antibiotics to help my UTI heal faster?
Talk to a doctor
The most important first step is being diagnosed to determine if you have UTI or something else and getting on the appropriate treatment. UTIs are caused by bacteria, so if that is what you have then usually you’ll need to be on antibiotics.
It's important to stay well hydrated with plain water to help the bladder heal and flush out the bacteria. You should drink a healthy amount of water so your urine is light yellow, usually at least 100 ounces of water daily during the UTI.
Avoid bladder irritants
Some things can irritate the bladder and make your UTI symptoms worse or feel like a UTI. Usually we recommend drinking only water - but it's especially important to avoid caffeine and alcohol which are both strong bladder irritants. Even juice can irritate a healing UTI.
Skip the cranberry and D-mannose.
There have been a lot of studies regarding taking cranberry supplements, D-mannose, and drinking cranberry juice while undergoing treatment for urinary tract infections. The results of these studies are widely inconclusive - meaning that there is no evidence that taking cranberry supplements, D-mannose, or drinking cranberry juice will help clear up a urinary tract infection. Further all of these contain sugar which can actually irritate the bladder more or cause you to urinate more.
Avoid sex while being treated for a UTI
Sex can introduce bacteria into the urether (where urine comes out) and cause even more irritation. Avoid sex until you are finished with the antibiotic and feeling completely better.
Use over the counter pain relief medicine
There are several options for pain relief during a UTI. All of them are over the counter--if we were prescribed phenazopyridine, it's exactly the same as over the counter Azo or Uristat. Likewise, prescription methanamine/salicylate is the same as Cystex. These medicines work by having a local pain relief effect in the urinary tract. They can be especially helpful while you're waiting for the antibiotic to kick in. Azo, Uristat, and Cystex do not actually treat the UTI, they just help with pain. After you’ve been on the antibiotic for 24-48 hours you shouldn’t need much additional pain relief.
Complete the full antibiotic course
It's important to take the full course of antibiotics unless your doctor tells you otherwise. The reason is that if you just take a few days of antibiotics you might only kill some of the bad bacteria - and then they might come back stronger and more resistant to that antibiotic next time. So even if you feel better quickly, take the full prescription as directed.
Say something if you don't feel better
If you aren't at least somewhat better 24 hours after starting antibiotics let your doctor know. You might have a resistant infection that needs different treatment, or you might have something besides a UTI.
Go to the ER if you get worse
If you start to feel worse go into an urgent care or the ER. Sometimes a bladder infection can turn into a kidney infection - and kidney infections can be more serious or even deadly. Some of the symptoms of a kidney infection include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Severe chills making your whole body shake
- Severe back pain
Go into your primary care provider if UTIs are frequent
Let your primary care doctor know UTIs are happening often
If you have recurrent UTIs, for example always getting UTIs with sex, you should talk to your primary care provider about prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics. Usually they will start you on a plan where you take 1 pill every time you can feel a UTI starting, so you can try to stop it before it becomes a full blown UTI. These preventive antibiotics have been shown to help people, especially those with more than 3-4 UTIs in a year.
Your primary care doctor may also help refer you to a urinary tract specialist who can look into other causes of symptoms like a UTI like interstitial cystitis.
Follow up about blood in the urine
Blood in your urine (hematuria) can happen with your UTI, so a small amount of blood or pink urine is common. If you are having more blood than that you should be seen in urgent care or the ER. After your UTI you should have your primary care doctor check to make sure there is no blood left in your urine, even after you feel better. The blood was probably caused by the UTI, and should go away after it is over. However, if there is still blood in your urine, even microscopic amounts, then you might need further testing to rule out things like bladder cancer or kidney stones.