Do I need antibiotics for a UTI?

Reviewed by:
Dr. Robert Kwok
Director of Health Informatics
Last updated on December 7, 2021

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common and easy to treat.

They’re also uncomfortable — even painful — and can cause serious issues if they’re left untreated and allowed to spread.

That treatment involves some type of antibiotic, which means you’ll need to see your doctor. Over-the-counter medicine won’t do.

HealthTap doctors can help, and they make the process easy. You can book an initial consult from the privacy of your home. Doctors can order labs and tests, and they can send any prescription you need to your local pharmacy — plus, you can check prices nearby to make sure you don’t overpay.

Keep reading to learn more about UTIs and what to watch out for.

What is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your ureters, bladder, urethra, or your kidneys. Most infections occur in the bladder and urethra.

UTIs typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. The urinary system is designed to keep out bad bacteria, but sometimes it fails and bacteria forms and grows into an infection in the urinary tract.

Signs and symptoms

You won’t always have symptoms with a UTI, but you may experience:

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate.

  • A burning sensation when urinating.

  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine.

  • Urine that appears cloudy.

  • Urine that appears red, bright pink, or dark-colored — a sign of blood in the urine.

  • Strong-smelling urine.

  • Pelvic pain, in women.

  • Abdominal pain or back pain.

  • Nausea and vomiting (rarely in cases of severe infection).


If you have any of the symptoms listed above or think you might have a UTI, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor to get clarity and care from someone you trust. 

As stated above, there are no over-the-counter antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. (In fact, topical antibiotics are the only kind available without a prescription.)

Your doctor will know which oral antibiotics to prescribe based on your symptoms, medical history, and/or the results of your tests.

Lastly, don’t stress. Most UTIs start to clear up within a day or two of starting treatment.

Have more questions? HealthTap can help

Schedule an appointment with your Primary Care doctor, or post your own anonymous health question and receive an answer within 24 hours.


HealthTap Editors

HealthTap Editors

HealthTap articles are reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Visit to learn more and meet some of the medical editorial board members behind our blog. The information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. HealthTap is a virtual-first, affordable urgent- and primary-care clinic, providing top-quality physician care nationwide to Americans with or without insurance. Our proprietary, easy-to-use, and innovative apps and electronic medical record apply Silicon Valley standards to effectively engage consumers and doctors online to increase the equity, accessibility, and efficiency of ongoing medical care for consumers, providers, employers, and payers. In addition, with HealthTap, businesses can offer virtual primary care to employees for less than the cost of free coffee. HealthTap's US-based board-certified physicians are available throughout North America. For more information, visit

More articles in Antibiotics


Can antibiotics make you feel tired?

If you’ve been prescribed a round of antibiotics, you might be thinking, “Whoa, hang on! Will these make me sleepy?” And that’s a reasonable concern—it’s possible.

What are the best antibiotics for strep throat?

We all get sore throats and swollen glands from time to time. But how do you know when yours is strep throat that demands special attention? And what types of antibiotics might you need to treat it?

Are there over-the-counter antibiotics for my tooth infection?

A tooth infection is no fun to deal with. But before you run out to the drugstore in search of a quick fix, let us save you the trip: over-the-counter antibiotics for a tooth infection don’t exist.

Should I take antibiotics for gonorrhea?

If you have or think you may have gonorrhea, HealthTap online doctors say antibiotics are a must.

Can I get over-the-counter antibiotics for chlamydia?

If you’re dealing with a chlamydia infection, your doctor is most likely going to prescribe antibiotics. So, couldn’t you skip the doctor’s appointment and just buy antibiotics over the counter?

Is there an over-the-counter antibiotic cream?

If you’re wondering if you can get an over-the-counter antibiotic cream, the answer is yes! But before you rush out and buy one, ask yourself: Am I sure I need this?
Read more

Not just a doctor —
your doctor