Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect your urinary tract, including your bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis) or kidneys (kidney infection). UTIs may be treated with antibiotics, but they're not always needed.

Check if it's a urinary tract infection (UTI)

Children

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) may include:

Children with UTIs may also:

Older, frail people or people with a urinary catheter

In older, frail people who have problems with memory, learning and concentration (such as dementia), and people with a urinary catheter, symptoms of a UTI may also include:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) for the first time
  • your child has symptoms of a UTI
  • you're a man with symptoms of a UTI
  • you're pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI
  • you're caring for an older, frail person who may have symptoms of a UTI
  • you have symptoms of a UTI after surgery
  • your symptoms get worse or do not improve within 2 days
  • your symptoms come back after treatment

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

You think you, your child or someone you care for may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) and:

  • a very high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
  • a very low temperature below 36C
  • are confused, drowsy or have difficulty speaking
  • have not been for a pee all day
  • have pain in the lower tummy or in the back, just under the ribs
  • can see blood in their pee

These symptoms could mean you have a kidney infection, which can be serious if it's not treated as it could cause sepsis.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Treatment from a GP

Treatment from a GP for UTIs that keep coming back

If a GP thinks you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI), they may do a urine test, although this is not always needed.

A GP may also:

It's important to take all the medicine you're prescribed, even if you start to feel better.

If your UTI comes back after treatment, or you have 2 UTIs in 6 months, a GP may:

In some people, antibiotics do not work or urine tests do not pick up an infection, even though you have UTI symptoms.

This may mean you have a long-term (chronic) UTI that is not picked up by current urine tests. Ask the GP for a referral to a specialist for further tests and treatments.

Long-term UTIs are linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer in people aged 60 and over.

Things you can do yourself

A pharmacist can help with UTIs

To help ease symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI):

Some people take cystitis sachets or cranberry drinks and products every day to prevent UTIs from happening, which may help. However, there's no evidence they help ease symptoms or treat a UTI if the infection has already started.

You can ask a pharmacist about treatments for a UTI.

A pharmacist can:

Some pharmacies offer a UTI management service. They may be able to give antibiotics if they're needed.

Causes of urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are usually caused by bacteria from poo entering the urinary tract.

The bacteria enter through the tube that carries pee out of the body (urethra).

Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.

Things that increase the risk of bacteria getting into the bladder include:

How to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

There are some things you can try to help prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI) happening or prevent it returning.

Do

  • wipe from front to back when you go to the toilet

  • keep the genital area clean and dry

  • drink plenty of fluids, particularly water – so that you regularly pee during the day and do not feel thirsty

  • wash the skin around the vagina with water before and after sex

  • pee as soon as possible after sex

  • promptly change nappies or incontinence pads if they're soiled

Don’t

  • do not use scented soap

  • do not hold your pee in if you feel the urge to go

  • do not rush when going for a pee – try to fully empty your bladder

  • do not wear tight, synthetic underwear, such as nylon

  • do not drink lots of alcoholic drinks, as they may irritate your bladder

  • do not have lots of sugary food or drinks, as they may encourage bacteria to grow

  • do not use condoms or a diaphragm or cap with spermicidal lube on them – try non-spermicidal lube or a different type of contraception

Other ways to prevent some UTIs coming back

If you keep getting a bladder infection (cystitis), there is some evidence it may be helpful to take:

Speak to your doctor before taking any of these during pregnancy.

Be aware that D-mannose and cranberry products can contain a lot of sugar.

If you're taking warfarin, you should avoid cranberry products.

Page last reviewed: 22 March 2022
Next review due: 22 March 2025