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Self-care – urinary tract infections in women

What to expect at home

Urinary tract infections can lead to infection. The infection most often occurs in the bladder itself. Sometimes the infection can spread to the kidneys.

Common symptoms include:

Foul odor of urine

Pain or burning when urinating

Need to urinate more often

Difficulty completely emptying the bladder

Strong urge to empty the bladder

These symptoms should improve soon after you start taking antibiotics.

If you feel sick, have a low fever or a little lower back pain, these symptoms will take 1 to 2 days to improve and up to 1 week to go away completely.

Taking your medications

You will be given antibiotics to take by mouth at home.

You may need to take antibiotics for only 3 days or for 7 to 14 days.

You must take all of the antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you do not finish them, the infection may return and may be harder to treat.

Antibiotics may rarely cause side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. Tell your health care provider about this. Do not just stop taking the pills.

Make sure your doctor knows if you might be pregnant before starting antibiotics.

Your provider may also give you a drug to relieve burning and the urgent need to urinate.

Your urine will be orange or red when you are taking this drug.

You will still need to take antibiotics.

Prevent future urinary tract infections

Bathing and hygiene

To prevent urinary tract infections in the future, you should:

Choose sanitary pads instead of tampons, as some doctors believe tampons make infections more likely. Change the pad every time you use the bathroom.

Do not use douches or feminine hygiene sprays or powders. As a general rule, do not use any product containing perfumes in the genital area.

Bathe in a shower instead of a bathtub. Avoid oil baths.

Keep your genital area clean. Clean your genital and anal areas before and after sexual activity.

Urinate before and after sexual activity. Drinking 2 glasses of water after sexual activity can help stimulate urine production.

Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.

Avoid tight pants. Wear underwear and pantyhose made of cotton fabric and change them at least once a day.


The following improvements to your diet may prevent urinary tract infections in the future:

Drink plenty of fluids, 2 to 4 quarts (2 to 4 liters) each day.

Do not drink liquids that irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and caffeine.

Recurrent infections

Some women have repeated bladder infections. Your gynecologist may suggest that you:

Use vaginal cream with estrogen if you have dryness caused by menopause.

Take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual contact.

Take a cranberry pill after sexual contact.

Keep a 3-day supply of antibiotics in the house for use if you develop an infection.

Take a single daily dose of an antibiotic to prevent infection.


Visit your doctor after you finish taking the antibiotics to make sure the infection is gone.

If you are not getting better or are having problems with your treatment, talk to your provider first.

When to call your provider

Call your provider right away if the following symptoms occur (may be signs of a possible kidney infection):

Back or side pain




Also call if symptoms of a urinary tract infection recur shortly after antibiotic treatment.

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