Urinary tract infection

If you or a family member has a urinary tract infection, you'll need to see your doctor for antibiotics.


Urinary tract infections are more common in girls and women – mainly because their urethra (the tube that goes from the bladder to the outside) is short and close to the anus.

Bacteria from bowel motions are the cause of most urinary infections. The bacteria can be transferred to the urethral area when wiping after a bowel motion or after sex.

You’re more likely to get a urinary tract infection if you’re pregnant or have a sexually transmitted disease. If the structure of your urinary tract is irregular, that can also make it more likely that you could get a urinary tract infection.


General symptoms

  • Pain, burning or stinging when you pass urine 
  • A sudden or constant urge to urinate – or need to go more often
  • Pain in your lower abdomen, lower back or side
  • Blood or pus (clouding) in your urine.

Symptoms in children

In children, the symptoms can be less clear.

Your child might:

  • be ‘fussy’ (unsettled)
  • have a fever
  • have abdominal pain
  • have vomiting or diarrhoea.

If your child is toilet trained and suddenly starts to wet their pants again, it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection.

It is also a sign if your child doesn’t want to pass urine (because of pain).

Symptoms in older people

Older people may have no symptoms or fever.

They might instead have:

  • changes in their mental state (such as confusion or lethargy)
  • a fall
  • symptoms such as diarrhoea or abdominal discomfort. 


See your doctor

If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you must see your doctor.

They may want a sample of your urine to test.

A urinary tract infection is treated with antibiotics.

You must take all the antibiotics you're given, even if your symptoms go away. If you don’t do this, the infection may become resistant to the antibiotic and may keep coming back.

Go back to your doctor if:

  • your symptoms haven't improved within three days of starting antibiotics
  • you have shaking chills or fever (temperature over 39ºC), a rapid pulse, or are feeling very unwell
  • you have any other new or worse symptoms.

Self care

  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed and complete the course, even if your symptoms improve.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Concentrated (darker than usual) urine may cause further irritation.
  • Ural or Citravescent sachets may make your urine less acidic and less painful to pass. You can buy these from a pharmacy. The use of these sachets for treating urinary tract infections is still being studied.
  • If the pain when passing urine is severe, it may help to urinate in a bath or tub of water, or pour water over your genitals as you urinate to dilute the urine coming into contact with the irritated urethral opening.
  • A painkiller such as paracetamol may help (taken as per prescriber or manufacturer instructions).

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.


Ways to prevent urinary tract infections

  • Avoid dehydration – drink plenty of fluids.
  • Empty your bladder before and soon after sex.
  • Wipe backwards after bowel movements, to take any bowel motions (‘poos’) away from your urethra, where the urine (‘wees’) comes out.
  • Wear cotton underpants.
  • Some people believe that drinking cranberry juice daily may help prevent infections. However, there is little scientific evidence for this.
For younger girls – ensure good genital hygiene. Encourage your daughter to avoid perfumed soaps and long soaks in bubble baths (especially if she has already had a urinary tract infection). Buy soft toilet paper and tell her to wipe gently.

Avoid food and drinks that can irritate your bladder, including:

  • fizzy, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks (eg, coffee and tea). (Also avoid cold and allergy medicines that contain caffeine)
  • tomatoes, fruit juice (except cranberry juice), dairy products, spicy foods, sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Stopping smoking will also help.

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