Home Remedies for Preventing and Treating UTIs

When symptoms are mild, consider trying these easy, at-home treatments.

Skinny jeans tight clothes utis
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When you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), relief usually can't come soon enough. Home remedies can help ease the discomfort.

What Exactly Is a UTI?

A UTI is a general term for any infection along the urinary tract. Infections usually start in the lower urinary tract, where the urethra (the tube that allows urine to pass out of the body) and bladder (where urine is stored) are located.

Sometimes UTIs travel to the ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder) and kidneys (where urine is produced).

What Are the Symptoms Like?
Most UTIs are bladder infections (also called cystitis). Common symptoms include:

  • burning
  • lower abdominal pain
  • a frequent or urgent need to urinate even though you may not produce much urine

If the infection travels from the bladder to one or both kidneys, more worrisome symptoms can develop. Kidney infections (also called pyelonephritis) include additional symptoms:

  • fever
  • back pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • bloody, cloudy, or foul-smelling urine

Who Can Get One?
Anyone can get a UTI and at any age, including babies, toddlers, and males—but these infections are much more common in females. The urethra is shorter in females than in males and closer to the anus, so it's easier for bacteria to enter the body and ascend the urinary tract.

Females who have hit menopause and are experiencing repeated UTIs should speak with a healthcare provider about a prescription for vaginal estrogen, said Nazema Siddiqui, MD, assistant professor of urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery at Duke University Medical Center. Research published in 2021 in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery shows it can help by building the body's defense against bad bugs.

If your child has urinary symptoms (which can differ from your own), consult your pediatrician and seek immediate care if fever and other signs of illness last more than 24 hours. Young children are at greater risk of kidney damage from UTIs than older kids and adults, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

When To Try Home Remedies
Adults with mild symptoms may want to try natural remedies before taking a prescription or while waiting for the effects to kick in.

Thomas Hooton, MD, professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine, recommended that patients with recurrent infections who have mild symptoms to "try to treat it naturally with increased fluid and some pain relief." If UTI symptoms improve in a day or two, "well, then, you've saved yourself an antibiotic," Dr. Hooten said.

That's important, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because overuse of antibiotics can render these drugs ineffective against future bacterial infections, including recurrent UTIs.

If symptoms are bad or don't improve, "by all means," Dr. Hooton said, "call the doctor and get an antibiotic."

In the meantime, there are some home remedies that are effective at easing symptoms whether or not your healthcare provider prescribes antibiotics.

01 of 08

Drink Water

Drinking plenty of water is a must when you have a UTI. Doing so will help flush the bacteria out of your body, and it will also provide relief by diluting urine so that it's less irritating when it leaves your system. It's also a key way to prevent future infections.

02 of 08

Urinate Frequently

If you've got to go, go! Peeing often may help flush out bacteria that cause UTIs.

Research published the Journal of Women's Health in 2006 involving female Taiwanese factory workers with a high rate of UTIs suggest an association between delayed bladder voiding and infections. After an educational campaign on the importance of fluids and urination, workers' water intake and bathroom breaks increased and UTI prevalence decreased.

Dr. Hooton said the findings make intuitive sense. The longer you hold it in, the more time you give bacteria "to stick to the bladder wall and cause infection."

03 of 08

Try D-mannose

The dietary supplement D-mannose is a simple sugar with a potential UTI prevention superpower: It sticks to E. coli bacteria.

A 2020 meta-review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that it appears effective for UTI prevention in women. Scientists think it may prevent bacteria from clinging to the bladder and causing infection.

More research may be needed to determine the optimal doses and side effect profile, but Dr. Hooton said that it appeared to be safe and that trying it could be helpful.

04 of 08

Consider Cranberry

Some people swear by cranberry to stave off UTIs. But study results are decidedly mixed, and many involve older adults in long-term care.

"In younger, healthier women, there may be a role for it," Dr. Siddiqui observed.

Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, chemicals that prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the urinary tract, according to a 2022 report in Molecules.

If you're going to try cranberry, pills may be more palatable than downing tart, 100% cranberry juice, Dr. Siddiqui said. If it works for you, stick with it—but if not, don't waste your money. And again, if your symptoms are serious, be sure to get in touch with your healthcare provider about getting a prescription. "We do generally recommend treating with antibiotics," Dr. Siddiqui said.

And a few words of caution: If you take a blood thinner, talk to your healthcare provider first. Taking cranberry may increase your risk of bleeding, Dr. Siddiqui noted. And people with interstitial cystitis may want to avoid cranberry because its acidity may cause further irritation, Dr. Siddiqui said. (Interstitial cystitis is a chronic bladder condition that causes pain and a feeling of pressure around the bladder, according to the Urology Care Foundation.)

05 of 08

Maybe Try Vitamin C

Urine that's more acidic is less welcoming to bacteria, or so the thinking goes. And that's why some people take vitamin C, which contains ascorbic acid, to ward off UTIs.

But Dr. Hooton said this idea wasn't convincing. "You can't really change your [vaginal] pH very easily by taking vitamin C," Dr. Hooton said.

In a 2016 review of non-antibiotic UTI prevention strategies in Pathogens, researchers could not recommend vitamin C. They found only two trials, and those studies produced contradictory results.

However, if you are already taking D-mannose and cranberry and you're otherwise healthy, adding C to your regimen likely won't hurt. "Many bladder health supplements combine all three of these agents," Dr. Siddiqui noted.

06 of 08

Take an OTC Pain Medication

Over-the-counter products like AZO contain phenazopyridine, a pain reliever that eases urinary pain, burning, urgency, and frequency.

Phenazopyridine is also available in prescription strength under brand names like Pyridium.

When you're really uncomfortable, phenazopyridine can "help soothe and calm the bladder while you're waiting for the antibiotic to work," Dr. Siddiqui said.

07 of 08

Apply Heat

Heat can be an effective at-home remedy for UTI pain.

Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen or back to ease the discomfort of a bladder or kidney infection, according to the NIDDK.

That advice goes for kids with bladder infections, too.

08 of 08

Wear Loose Clothing

If you're still getting UTIs, tight skinny jeans may not be your thing.

"We don't really think that clothing causes infections or makes infections persist," but it might "worsen irritation," Dr. Siddiqui explained.

Wearing underwear with a cotton crotch and quickly changing out of damp workout clothes and wet bathing suits may also help, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health.

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