Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include a sudden need to pee and pain or a burning sensation when peeing.

You can usually treat a urinary tract infection with things like painkillers and drinking plenty of fluids. A GP may prescribe antibiotics.

Urinary tract infections are usually caused by bacteria from poo entering the urinary tract.

Check if it's a urinary tract infection (UTI)

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

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)

Treatment from a GP

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.

Things you can do yourself

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.

Causes of urinary tract infections (UTIs)

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
  • pregnancy
  • 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
[Last reviewed 2020-11-18]
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