The urethra is the tube that takes urine out of the body. Once bacteria go into the urethra, they can attach to the walls of the bladder and multiply quickly.
The resulting infection can cause uncomfortable symptoms, such as the sudden urge to urinate. It may also cause pain while urinating and abdominal cramping.
A combination of medical and home treatments may ease these symptoms. If left untreated, bladder infections can become life-threatening. This is because the infection can spread to the kidneys or blood.
Here are seven effective bladder infection remedies.
Why it helps: Water flushes out the bacteria in your bladder. This helps get rid of the infection faster. It also dilutes your urine, so urinating may be less painful.
Urine is made of waste products from your body. Concentrated, dark urine may be more irritating and painful to pass when you have a bladder infection.
Diluted urine is lighter in color and usually doesn’t irritate as much.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Limit caffeinated drinks, including coffee, tea, and soda. Caffeine can irritate your bladder even more when you don’t have an infection.
Why it helps: Frequent urination helps eliminate the infection by moving bacteria out of the bladder. “Holding it,” or not going to the bathroom when you need to, allows time for the bacteria to continue multiplying in the bladder.
Urinating after sex may help flush bacteria away from your urinary tract. This prevents germs from settling and causing an infection.
- Drink plenty of fluids so you can urinate. Go to the bathroom as soon as you can.
Why they help: Antibiotics kill the bacteria causing the bladder infection. If you have a UTI, you usually need medication to get rid of the germ causing the infection. Experts recommend treating UTIs with antibiotics.
If you have symptoms of a UTI, see your doctor. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), vaginal infections, and certain vaginal conditions can mimic symptoms of a UTI. So it’s essential to get the right treatment for your condition.
- Call your doctor if your symptoms last longer than two days or become worse. You’ll likely need antibiotics to treat your bladder infection.
- If you’re older, pregnant, or have other serious health conditions, like diabetes, call your doctor right away.
- The length of treatment might vary, depending on the drug your doctor prescribes and your overall health. It’s important to take your medication for the full course, even if you feel better before it’s done. Taking the full dose will make sure all the harmful bacteria are out your system.
Why they help: Severe bladder infections can cause pain in the pelvic region, even when you’re not urinating. Antibiotics will treat the infection.
Keep in mind it may take a day or two before the drugs start to help. Taking pain medications may relieve abdominal cramps, back pain, and any discomfort you may feel.
- Ask your doctor if it’s safe to take over-the-counter pain relievers. Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), (Advil, Motrin IB), or phenazopyridine (Pyridium) can ease pain while you wait for the antibiotics to start working.
Why it helps: Putting low heat across your abdominal region or back may soothe the dull ache that sometimes occurs during bladder infections. This can be especially helpful when used together with your medications.
- You can buy a heating pad at a local drugstore or online. Make sure to follow the directions on the package carefully to avoid burning yourself. You can also make a warm, moist compress at home. Simply soak a small towel in warm water and place it over your bladder or abdomen.
Why it helps: Bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments. For women, tight jeans and other tight clothes can trap moisture in delicate areas. This creates a breeding ground for vaginal bacteria.
- Wear cotton underwear, loose pants, or skirts to promote air circulation and reduce bacterial growth.
Why it helps: Cranberry has been used as a natural treatment for preventing bladder infections for generations. According to recent research, cranberry juice and cranberry tablets show some promise as a remedy for women who frequently get bladder infections.
But it’s not clear whether cranberry juice really works for preventing bladder infections in the larger population.
- Talk to your doctor about cranberry juice as a way to prevent bladder infections.
The following lifestyle changes may help reduce the occurrence of bladder infections:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water per day.
- Urinate as soon as you feel the need.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Change your underwear daily.
- Urinate before and after sexual activity.
- Avoid using a diaphragm or spermicide, and change to an alternate form of birth control.
- Men: Use nonspermicidal lubricated condoms.
- Women: Wipe from front to back after urinating.
- Women: Don’t use douches or vaginal sprays.
Your doctor may recommend preventive treatment if you’ve been experiencing recurrent bladder infections. This can consist of taking antibiotics in small daily doses to prevent or control future bladder infections.
Diet, along with the acidity of the urine, may also impact how individuals are affected by these infections.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that those whose intestinal tract produced certain substances, called aromatics, had less bacterial activity in their urine.
The production of these substances seems to be related to the types of healthy bacteria people carry in their intestinal tract. Also, urine that was low in acid had fewer bacteria, so medications that can make the urine less acidic may have a role in preventing these infections.
Bladder infections, including recurring infections, require medical attention. When treated promptly and effectively, the risk of serious complications is low.
Numerous researchers are also working on vaccines to protect against the most common types of bacteria that cause bladder infections. Until then, home remedies combined with medications are important steps to feeling better.
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