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woman wondering how to cure a UTI at home
Down There Care

How to Treat a UTI at Home

By Olivia Ware

Ever had the sensation of really needing to pee, but after rushing to the toilet, you’re only met with a lackluster drip-drop—and zero relief? Or worse, you do pee (a little) but it’s accompanied by MAJOR burning? Well, if the answer is no, lucky you! 

For those familiar to the feeling, having a UTI (urinary tract infection) is incredibly painful. And, though UTI treatment is pretty simple, it is often way too difficult—and embarrassing—to access.

I used to clock a lot of time at women’s clinics, silently screaming while I peed into yet another cup for urinalysis. No newcomer to trading my urine culture for some sweet antibiotic relief, I quickly grew tired of the hoopla required to treat recurring UTIs. Having to first book an appointment only to endure a lecture on hygienic practices can feel pretty shaming. One time I called for an appointment while desperately clutching my abdomen and was told that the earliest I could be seen would be the following week. Um, no. By next week it will be a full-blown kidney infection. This girl cannot afford to endure that pain or the accompanying hospital bill. Isn’t there a way to treat UTIs at home?

What Causes a UTI?

Bacteria is the name of the game when it comes to UTIs. Bacteria enter the urethra (the opening of the urinary tract), causing irritation and swelling. Most UTIs are caused by e-coli, a bacteria that lives in the bowel. I know, it’s gross. When this or some other menacing bacteria finds its way into the urinary tract, an infection results. Since UTIs are caused by bacteria, antibiotics treat them. 

Can You Treat UTIs Without Antibiotics?

The reason that UTIs often entail doctor’s appointments to treat is that UTIs require antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics, while commonplace, require a prescription. Sometimes it feels like the American medical industry is more guarded with prescribing antibiotics than they are opiates. But that is another article entirely. 

Back to UTIs and antibiotics (or lack thereof)! Mild infections may clear on their own with plenty of hydration, but for most of us, it is unlikely that a UTI will disappear without antibiotic intervention.

Still, when searching the internet, you’ll find a dozen or more “tips for at-home UTI treatment.” Seriously, home remedies for UTIs could fill their own universe of internet lore. Increasing Vitamin C intake, flushing that sucker out with fluids, and taking probiotics are just a few suggestions in the pantry to cure UTIs without having to go to the doctor. Everybody and their grandmother seems to have a trick for treating a UTI at home, but does anything actually work?

Does Cranberry Juice Help a UTI?

Cranberry juice may be the most popular and well-known home remedy for a UTI. The logic behind using cranberry juice has to do with something hard to pronounce in it (proanthocyanidins), which is said to help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. So in a sense, cranberry juice is most useful in preventing UTIs. The same goes for the other at-home UTI treatments—they may help prevent UTIs, but treating a UTI in action? Not so much.

By the way, the cranberry juice you’re probably thinking of is mostly sugar. Pure cranberry juice is quite bitter. So no, knocking back a few vodka-crans at the bar isn’t going to help your UTI or your head (hello hangover). 

Can UTIs Go Away on Their Own?

The likelihood of a UTI going away on its own once UTI symptoms exhibit is slim. This unfortunate truth is especially troubling for chronic UTI sufferers. Plus, the risk of letting a UTI fester without medical intervention is too high. If the infection passes from the bladder into the kidneys, it is bad news. Kidney infections may then reach the bloodstream, causing sepsis which can be life-threatening.

If your UTI symptoms worsen to include chills, fever, back pain, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical treatment immediately. Your pesky UTI has likely progressed into a kidney infection. At this point, 24 hour Urgent Care or the Emergency Room may be your only opportunity for immediate relief. Sadly, the bill for such life-saving care may be over $1,000 dollars. Yikes.

How to Avoid UTIs in the First Place

Let’s talk more about UTI prevention. You’ve probably heard it all before; I certainly had while suffering a 9 month period of chronic UTIs. The fact is, some people are just prone to UTIs. A doctor once told me that the configuration of my anatomy made me vulnerable to UTIs, but maybe that’s TMI about UTI. No matter the lengths we go to prevent them, UTIs happen. Still, if you need a few tips for preventing UTIs before it is too late, here you go:

  • Always pee after intercourse. Always. 

  • Don’t wait to urinate! Try not to ‘hold it’ for too long.

  • Wipe front to back.

  • Wear clean underwear (this applies to non-UTI sufferers too).

  • Change your pad, tampon, or other menstrual product regularly.

  • Avoid using spermicide if prone to UTIs.

  • Stay hydrated. Now is a good time to have a glass of water.

Additionally, common irritants to the urinary tract may cause your UTI symptoms to worsen. If you are struggling with or prone to UTIs, avoid these foods and drinks:

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • Spicy foods (sorry taste buds)

  • Basically anything acidic

If you are already doing all of this, and I know you are, then what should you do? 

How do You Get Rid of a UTI at Home?

Sadly, home-remedies just aren’t very effective if you are already suffering from a UTI. However, there is a surefire way to treat your UTI from the comfort of your own home without inconvenient doctor appointments or guzzling gallons of cranberry juice. Telemedicine to the rescue! Today, you can receive affordable UTI treatment online! While you still need a prescription for antibiotics, now you don’t have to go through the pain and embarrassment of tracking one down from your doctor’s office or nearest low-cost clinic. 

Feel free to fire up the heating pad and get your fix of fluids from the couch while the medicine is called into your local pharmacy for pick up in 2-3 hours. It’s that convenient, plus you’ll save some cash with no need for health insurance, copays, or lab tests. UTIs suck—don’t let them steal even more of your time, comfort, and money!

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