If you feel burning or stabbing pain when you urinate, you might have a bladder infection. Bacteria growing in the bladder or urethra cause bladder infections. The urethra is the tube that takes urine out of your body.
Anyone can get a bladder infection, but they’re more common in women than men or children. Bladder infections are also called urinary tract infections (UTIs). The best remedies for bladder infections include a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle adjustments.
Increase the amount of water you drink when you’ve got a painful UTI. Fluids perform two jobs: they empty bacteria out of your bladder, and dilute your urine.
Urine is made of waste products and acids from your body. Concentrated, dark urine is more acidic and is sometimes more painful to pass when you have a bladder infection. Diluted urine is lighter in color and usually doesn’t burn as much.
Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea or soda. Caffeine can irritate your bladder even more when you have an infection.
Bacteria can grow in your bladder for a variety of reasons. “Holding it,” or not going to the bathroom when you need to, can increase the risk of bacteria growth. One of the best remedies and preventive tools for bladder infections is to urinate frequently.
It’s especially important to urinate after having sex. Sexual activity can push bacteria deeper into the urethra of both men and women. Urinating soon after sex flushes bacteria away from your urinary tract, so it can’t settle and cause an infection.
In some cases, a minor UTI resolves itself. You might feel symptoms for a day or two, but with increased hydration and urination, it should pass. Other infections are more serious and require medical treatment.
Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics for a bladder infection. The length of treatment might vary, depending on the specific drug you’re taking.
It’s important to take your medication for the full course even if you feel better before it’s done. You’ll need the full dose to make sure the harmful bacteria are out of your system.
Severe bladder infections can cause pain in the pelvic region even when you’re not urinating. Antibiotics will help you feel better, but it may take a day or two before the drugs kick in.
Ask your doctor if it’s safe to take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers in the meantime (it is for most people). OTC acetaminophen or ibuprofen can take the edge off the pain as you wait for the antibiotics to start working.
If anti-inflammatory meds don’t work for you, try a heating pad instead. Place the pad on a towel to avoid burning yourself, and center the heat over your bladder.
Or, try a warm, moist compress. Low heat across your abdominal region can soothe the dull ache that is sometimes a symptom of a UTI.
Bladder infection remedies can include how you dress. Think casual, relaxed, and flowy. Clothing that lets your skin breathe can help keep the bacteria in your urinary tract at bay.
Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria, in the bladder and elsewhere. Cotton underwear and loose pants or skirts promote air circulation and reduce the chances of bacteria growth. Tight jeans and other snug-fitting pants can trap moisture in your most delicate areas.
Cranberry has been a natural and alternative treatment for bladder infections for generations. But does it really work? The answer isn’t clear-cut, which often leads to more questions and confusion.
According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, cranberry juice and tablets have shown some promise as a remedy for UTI in women who get recurring infections. Because the studies are of a very specific population, the findings don’t offer evidence of efficacy for a larger population.
The bottom line: talk to your doctor about using cranberry juice as a treatment for your bladder infection. Drinking it probably won’t hurt, but it might not help as much as you would like.
Most bladder infections—even recurring cases—aren’t serious enough to impact your overall health. The National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse reports that medical researchers are working on a vaccine that will protect against UTIs.
Someday, bladder infections may no longer exist, but until then, home remedies and a doctor’s prescription can help you feel better.