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A kidney infection is a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment. These infections often start as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a bladder infection and then spread to affect one or both kidneys.

Symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • back or side pain
  • groin pain
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • frequent urination
  • urine that’s cloudy, smells bad, or contains blood

You may be able to use home remedies together with your prescribed medical treatment to ease some symptoms and improve kidney health, but you shouldn’t try to treat yourself alone. Always go to a doctor first, for diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

UTIs are uncomfortable, but they’re not an immediate medical emergency. Some people make the mistake of assuming the same is true with a kidney infection.

Kidney infections are serious conditions and they do require medical attention. Untreated, a kidney infection (sometimes called pyelonephritis) can quickly cause long-term kidney damage or kidney scarring. These infections can also cause sepsis, which can lead to shock.

Because of this, a kidney infection can be fatal if it progresses. It’s important to have it treated immediately by a healthcare professional.

Note that kidney stones, if untreated, can also cause a blockage that can lead to pyelonephritis and sepsis. This may require a procedure done with intravenous antibiotics by a urologist.

Medical treatment for kidney infections

Antibiotics are always the first line of defense against a kidney infection. If the kidney infection isn’t severe, a doctor will likely give you oral antibiotics to take once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days.

It’s important to take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you feel better within several days, as stopping early could lead to antibiotic resistance or re-infection. A doctor will also encourage you to drink plenty of water.

In some cases, kidney infections may require admission to the hospital. You’ll be given fluids and antibiotics intravenously through an IV, both of which can help treat the infection.

In addition, lab work and imaging may be done to determine the severity of infection as well as the cause, such as a blockage due to a kidney stone or anatomical abnormality.

If you have recurring UTIs that increase your risk of frequent kidney infections, a doctor will help you establish the cause of their frequency and help you prevent further infections from occurring.

Some people prefer to treat medical conditions with home remedies or alternative remedies.

Because of how serious kidney infections are, it’s important that you don’t rely on home remedies. Instead, take the prescription antibiotics a doctor gives you and use home remedies to help ease symptoms or pain. You can also use home remedies to avoid UTIs and improve kidney function.

1. Drink lots of water

Drinking plenty of water can help flush bacteria from the body, helping eliminate the infection faster. It can also help clear out the entire urinary system.

Drinking plenty of water can also help prevent UTIs that can lead to kidney infections, so it’s a good practice to keep. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of fluids daily.

2. Drink cranberry juice

Cranberry juice has long been used as a remedy for UTIs and bladder infections. There’s some evidence that drinking cranberry juice may help or prevent UTIs in some people.

Many people prefer the sweet flavor of cranberry juice to water, helping them drink more. However, cranberry juices full of added sweeteners aren’t great for you. A cranberry supplement or pure cranberry juice is a better alternative to get the benefits of cranberries.

3. Avoid alcohol and coffee

The kidneys’ most important role is to filter out harmful substances and toxins, and both alcohol and caffeine can require extra work from the kidneys. This may hinder the process of healing from an infection. Alcohol and antibiotics also shouldn’t be mixed, so avoid alcohol during your treatment for this reason as well.

4. Take probiotics

Probiotics have two big benefits when it comes to treating kidney infections. The first is that they’ll help keep your body’s healthy bacteria in check, even though the antibiotics may get rid of both “good” and “bad” bacteria.

There’s also evidence that probiotics can aid in decreasing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in patients.

You can find probiotics at your local grocery store, online, or through a subscription service, like Uqora.

5. Get some vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect tissues in the body from oxidative stress, which can help promote kidney health.

There’s also older animal-based research from 2003 and 2011 that shows that vitamin C can prevent kidney scarring during acute kidney infection and boost the enzymes within the kidneys.

You can take vitamin C supplements or eat foods dense in this nutrient.

6. Try parsley juice

Parsley juice is a nutrient-dense diuretic that can increase the frequency and amount of urination. This can help flush out the bacteria in the kidneys faster, making antibiotics even more effective.

If you don’t like the taste of parsley outright, you can mix it into a smoothie with strong-flavored fruits, including cranberries or blueberries for best results.

7. Consume apples and apple juice

Apples are also nutrient-dense. Their high acid content may help the kidneys maintain acidity in the urine, possibly inhibiting further growth of bacteria.

They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial in helping the kidneys heal following the infection.

Learn more about the many health benefits of apples.

8. Take an Epsom salt bath

Both Epsom salts and warm water can ease pain. This can help make the uncomfortable side effects of the kidney infection a little more tolerable while you wait for the antibiotics to take effect.

Since abdominal pain is sometimes a symptom of antibiotics, as well as kidney infections, Epsom salts could also help even after symptoms from the kidney infection are resolved.

Read about how to make an Epsom salt detox bath, as well as potential side effects to keep in mind.

9. Use nonaspirin pain relievers

Nonaspirin pain relievers can help relieve discomfort. Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help break fevers caused by the infection.

However, note that if you have kidney dysfunction, or acute kidney injury, as a result of a kidney infection, it’s important to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).

10. Apply heat

While you wait for the antibiotics to kick in, you can use heat therapy to reduce pain. Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the affected area, and keep it on for about 20 minutes at a time.

Apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular home remedies, no matter what type of condition you’re trying to treat. It’s touted by some as a remedy for kidney infections, too, thanks to its antibacterial properties. That being said, there’s no evidence or research available that supports this usage.

Baking soda is sometimes used as a home remedy for kidney infections, with some believing that it can help detoxify the kidneys by helping them filter better. There’s no evidence to support this, either.

On the contrary, it may even be dangerous to attempt to use baking soda for this purpose. One 2013 study found that misuse of baking soda actually led to hospital admission for some people for electrolyte imbalances, respiratory depression, or metabolic alkalosis.

Anyone can get a kidney infection. However, since UTIs can turn into kidney infections, you can lower your risk of a kidney infection by lowering your risk of a UTI.

Tips for reducing your UTI risk include:

A kidney infection is a serious condition that require prompt treatment with antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional. Home remedies can be used as a complementary treatment to help ease other symptoms, but make sure you ask a doctor before using them to ensure they won’t interfere with your treatment.