UTIs are ubiquitous, especially in women. They can be painful and embarrassing.
In most cases, antibiotics are needed to treat a UTI. Antibiotics kill the bacteria causing the infection and help your symptoms disappear in 1 to 2 days. In fact, because UTIs are so common, they account for up to 20% of all antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. — second only to respiratory infections.
Despite the fact that antibiotics are effective, many individuals wonder if it’s worth trying to treat a UTI without antibiotics by using other methods first.
Alternatively, they may be concerned about antibiotic usage and the potential for negative effects. Finally, many individuals wonder if waiting to see if the UTI goes away is a good idea.
Even while roughly one-third of UTIs resolve on their own, antibiotics remain the first line of defense, especially if you’re pregnant or belong to another high-risk category. With this in mind, here’s our guide to understanding the benefits and drawbacks of waiting to start an antibiotic, as well as what other treatments can aid your body’s recovery.
If you have a UTI, do you need to take antibiotics?
Since most UTIs are caused by bacteria, the common treatment is the use of antibiotics which work by killing these microorganisms. However, using antibiotics can be problematic for several reasons:
- there are a few types of bacteria that are becoming increasingly resistant to available antibiotics
- many UTIs get better on their own without treatment in 2-3 days (which means that people often end up taking antibiotics when they don’t need to)
- antibiotics can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, yeast infections, and allergic reactions
Can You Get Rid of a UTI Without Antibiotics?
The problem is that it’s hard to know if you need antibiotics or not because there isn’t an easy way to tell whether your infection will go away on its own or not without waiting weeks for lab results.
This leads many people who could treat their infections with over-the-counter medications to unnecessarily taking antibiotics which may cause side effects like yeast infections and allergies as well as antibiotic resistance (which means that these potentially life-saving drugs won’t work when you really need them).
A free self-assessment UTI tool online is available so anyone can quickly find out what course of treatment is right for them by answering questions about their symptoms online at home rather than having to wait days before getting medical advice from doctors’ offices or urgent care centers. If you’re not sure if you need antibiotics or not, take this free online UTI assessment to find out.
There are many home remedies that you can use to treat a UTI, but figuring out whether or not these treatments will work is difficult. The trick with home remedies is to take the right combination of medications and apply them towards treating your infection at the right time.
This means using cranberry juice as a preventative measure when you are prone to UTIs but waiting until you already have symptoms before using it as a treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms, be sure to check out the free online UTI assessment to find out what medications are likely to work best for your symptoms.
Should I consider treating my UTI without antibiotics?
In the end, if you have a UTI, antibiotics are advised. Despite decades of research, there is no conclusive evidence that alternative treatments for UTIs are as effective as antibiotics.
Antibiotics can immediately kill bacteria and alleviate your discomfort. Most persons with a urinary tract infection feel better within 1 to 2 days of taking antibiotics. Antibiotics, on the other hand, can have certain drawbacks. They can have the following side effects:
An allergic response or other life-threatening problem can occur in certain persons. Antibiotic overuse may also have major public health implications.
Side effects of taking antibiotics for UTI
Antibiotics are effective at killing the bacteria that cause UTIs, but they can upset your gut and vaginal flora. This is because antibiotics aren’t always discriminating in which germs they kill, which means they can kill both healthy and dangerous bacteria. Other health issues, such as a yeast infection or severe diarrhea, may result as a result of this.
22% of women who take antibiotics for a urinary tract infection (UTI) may acquire a yeast infection.
With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that many individuals ask if a UTI may be treated without antibiotics, especially because 25% to 42% of UTIs resolve without treatment.
Over the years, scientists have wondered if non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could be equally as effective as antibiotics. NSAIDs are over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn) (Aleve). Although nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do not kill bacteria, they can help reduce inflammation in the same way that antibiotics do.
According to a meta-analysis published in 2020, NSAIDs may be a good option for antibiotics if you simply have a mild to severe UTI and no other risks or consequences. Antibiotics appeared to work better than NSAIDs in the first 3 to 4 days of the tests.
By the seventh day, there was no discernible difference between the two. In other words, antibiotics and NSAIDs appeared to function equally well after a week, however, antibiotics were clearly superior at removing symptoms rapidly.
If you have a minor UTI, you might want to wait a few days before taking antibiotics. If your symptoms don’t improve after a few days, you might want to consider starting an antibiotic.
Risks associated with not taking antibiotics to treat a UTI
In short, yes there are risks associated with not taking antibiotics to treat a UTI.
The majority of UTIs do not result in kidney damage or other long-term issues. However, even a minor UTI can cause significant pain and discomfort. UTI symptoms can also cause you to miss work or interfere with your personal life.
If a minor UTI is not treated, it might spread to your kidneys in some situations. This appears to arise in roughly 2% of cases in people with normal urinary tract architecture. However, if your kidneys are infected, they may be harmed, especially if the infection isn’t treated appropriately.
The bacteria can also travel beyond your urinary tract, affecting your blood or other body tissues in some situations. This can put your life in jeopardy, or possibly cause death.
A UTI is more likely to cause difficulties in certain persons. If these persons get any UTI symptoms, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Those most vulnerable to complications of not taking antibiotics for a UTI are:
- Are pregnant
- Are immunocompromised
- Have a penis
- Have an enlarged prostate, or problems emptying their bladder
- Have a history of kidney stones or kidney problems
- Have diabetes
- Have a catheter or ureteral stent
Can You Treat a UTI Without Antibiotics?
It may be worth considering treatment of a UTI without antibiotics because they can often lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This means that if you take antibiotics every time you have a UTI, the bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics and they will no longer be effective.
In most cases, UTIs can be treated without antibiotics, but it is important to see a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for you.
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