Urinary tract infections are the most common bacterial infections in the United States. Most women will get a UTI at some point in their lives.
This article digs into the causes and symptoms of UTIs, and how you can treat and prevent them at home, without visiting the doctor.
Doctors aren’t always the answer
A urinary tract infection (or “UTI”) is one of the most common reasons people visit urgent care clinics. This isn’t always necessary.
The go-to treatment for UTI is a course of antibiotics. This will cure the UTI, but it will also destroy some of the “good bacteria” naturally found inside the body. This means that if you continue taking antibiotics every time you get an infection, your body becomes less able to fight off the infection on its own.
For that reason, I recommend taking steps to prevent UTIs and learning what you can do to treat the infection at home.
Note: In many cases, it is necessary to visit a doctor (more on this below).
Causes & Symptoms
Due to our physiology, it is much, much easier for a female to contract a UTI than a male. In most cases, UTI typically occurs when E. Coli bacteria makes its way into the urethra/urinary tract.
The symptoms typically arrive suddenly. Symptoms include:
- Pain while urinating
- Lower back pain
- Sore throat
- Urinary urgency
- Urine that smells strange or appears cloudy
- Pain near the pubic bone
Without treatment, UTI can progress into the bladder or kidneys. These are called “upper UTIs” and they do require treatment.
Symptoms of kidney infection:
- Back pain
- Shaking and chills
Symptoms of bladder infection:
- Pelvic pressure
- Discomfort in lower abdomen
- Painful urination
- Blood in urine
Warning: Please see a doctor if you believe you have a bladder or kidney infection.
Causes of UTI in men
The symptoms of a UTI for men are the same as outlined above. In some cases, it can progress into a prostate infection. Symptoms of a prostate infection include:
- Difficulty peeing
- Pain in the area between rectum and scrotum
- Pain in pelvis
UTIs are more common in men as they age. Other risk factors include:
- Anal sex
- Being uncircumcised
- Sedentary lifestyle
Click here to learn more about UTIs in men (source: HealthLine).
How long does a UTI last?
Best-case scenario: 25-40% of mild UTIs disappear in five days. You can increase your chances of this happening by following the advice in this article.
Remember, if your symptoms keep getting worse, you should see a doctor.
With antibiotics, symptoms typically disappear in 2-3 days. A doctor will typically give you a painkiller to get you through the first few days.
Even if you have no symptoms, it is important to continue the full course of antibiotics and to avoid alcohol and caffeine until you are finished with the antibiotics.
Important Note: UTIs are not contagious, but you should abstain from sex until your antibiotics are finished.
Can you self-treat a UTI?
There are steps you can take to treat a mild UTI and to decrease pain, but most UTIs will require a visit to the doctor. AZO is a common over-the-counter brand that offers painkillers and cranberry pills to treat and prevent UTIs.
If you want to get rid of the infection immediately, antibiotics are the best way to go. You can also try natural supplements (more on this below). If you want to avoid over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs, we recommend following the lifestyle changes and advice below in order to prevent future infections.
Click here to read more about urinary tract infections (source: WebMD).
How to prevent UTIs
As someone who struggled with chronic UTIs for several years, I can tell you from experience that in some cases it is necessary to make lifestyle changes to prevent future infections.
For most people, urinary tract infections are relatively easy to prevent. And after you’ve had your first one, you’ll definitely want to decrease the risk of getting a second one.
Get rid of UTIs fast without antibiotics
One product I highly recommend is UTI Slip. This is a natural supplement you take 1-2x per day to keep your urethra clean.
It can also be taken several times a day to treat UTI when you have one, and there are helpful directions on the back of the bottle that tell you how many pills to take during an infection.
The bottle is $22.99 on Amazon and contains 90 pills.
Here’s a list of general lifestyle tips to follow if you want to prevent UTIs:
- Don’t spend a lot of time in wet/sweaty clothing (this includes swimsuits)
- Avoid hot tubs
- Drink lots of water
- Get plenty of Vitamin C
- Take high-potency cranberry supplements
- Limit alcohol and caffeine
- Wear cotton underwear
- Do not wear thongs or tights
- Always wipe front to back (men included)
Genneve Cleansing Cloths
Here’s another product I recommend. I keep these in my gym bag (along with a pair of clean underwear) and in the bathroom (for after sex).
One pack is $10.40 on Amazon and contains 30 cloths that are pH balanced and free of parabens and fragrance. I especially like this product because it is unscented and the clothes are not individually wrapped (less packaging = better for the environment).
Sex is the most common way of contracting a UTI. In most cases, you can avoid getting UTI by peeing right before and right after sex, and by washing your privates directly after sex, whether it be in the shower or with a sanitary wipe.
Some notes on sex:
- Sex positions that include lots of friction in the urethra area (such as girl on top) can increase your risk of getting a UTI
- Make sure any sex toys are sanitized before use
- Some methods of birth control can cause UTIs, including the Depo-Provera birth control shot and spermicide
- Use of scented lube can also increase UTI risk
- If you have sex right before bedtime, sleep without underwear or pants
Notes on showering & hygiene:
It is very important to keep the vaginal area clean, but cleaning it too much can disrupt your natural environment and actually cause a UTI!
That means it’s important to limit your use of sanitary wipes and other products. In the shower, I recommend washing the area with water only or using a liquid soap designed for the vaginal area.
Note: make sure your partner is observing proper hygiene. If you’re following all of this advice and still getting infections, it could be because your partner isn’t as clean “down there” as he/she should be. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion about hygiene and UTIs.