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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 spreads to affect one or both kidneys.
While most kidney infections are easy to treat and recover from quickly, in rare cases, they can lead to serious health problems, especially if left untreated.
Not only that, but not properly treating an infection can leave you feeling pretty uncomfortable, as symptoms like painful urination are anything but pleasant.
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.
The kidneys filter waste products from your blood and into your urine and regulate the water and electrolyte content in your blood. These are both essential health functions.
Kidney infections are usually caused by bacteria that has entered your kidneys and bladder by way of your urinary tract. They can also be caused by bacteria from another infection elsewhere in your body, bladder or kidney surgery, or a blockage of urine flow such as by a kidney stone, tumor or enlarged prostate.
They can be either sudden or chronic and usually quite painful. They can also be serious and life threatening if not treated appropriately.
People assigned female at birth tend to be more susceptible to kidney infections because their urethras are shorter than those of people assigned male. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter their urinary tract, especially since it’s closer to the vagina and anus. Pregnancy increases this risk factor.
Other risk factors include:
- being prone to urinary tract infections
- having a weakened immune system
- having problems regularly emptying your bladder completely when urinating
Symptoms of a kidney infection
Kidney infection symptoms usually appear about 2 days after initial infection and can vary between children and adults. Common symptoms among adults include:
- pain in your abdomen, back, groin, or side
- frequent urination or the sensation of needing to urinate
- burning or pain while urinating
- blood or pus in your urine
- cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- nausea or vomiting
In children under 2 years old, a kidney infection may only come with a high fever as a symptom. Adults over 65 may only experience mental confusion and jumbled speech as their symptoms.
If a kidney infection isn’t treated swiftly or appropriately, symptoms can become severe and result in sepsis, which is a life threatening condition. Sepsis symptoms include:
- rapid breathing and heart rate
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 that do require medical attention. Untreated, a kidney infection can quickly cause long-term kidney damage or kidney scarring. These infections can also cause sepsis, which can lead to sepic 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 left untreated, can also cause a blockage that can lead to infection 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 7 to 14 days.
It’s important to take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you feel better within several days. 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 going 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 the 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 complementary 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 a lot 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.
2. Drink cranberry juice
Many people prefer the sweet flavor of cranberry juice to water. 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.
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.
6. Try parsley juice
Parsley juice is a nutrient-dense diuretic that
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 the additional growth of bacteria.
They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial in helping the kidneys heal following the infection.
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.
9. Use non-aspirin pain relievers
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 a 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
Anyone can get a kidney infection. However, since UTIs can turn into kidney infections, you can lower your risk of kidney infection by lowering your risk of a UTI.
Tips for reducing your UTI risk include:
How long does a kidney infection last?
Most people start to feel better once they’ve been taking prescribed antibiotics for a few days. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for a course of 2 weeks. It’s important to take the entire course even if you feel better before you’re done.
Does your urine change color during a kidney infection?
You may sometimes experience dark reddish-brown or cloudy urine with a kidney infection. If you haven’t seen a doctor or haven’t been diagnosed, this is a telltale sign that you should get checked out.
How can you improve your kidney health?
Lifestyle habits that benefit your overall health, like staying hydrated and exercising regularly, can be vastly beneficial to your kidney health.
Similarly, you shouldn’t smoke, and you should go see your doctor for regular checkups to monitor your blood pressure. If you’re at risk for kidney infections, you should have your kidneys tested and monitored.
A kidney infection is a serious condition that requires 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.