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).

Treatment

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.

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HealthTap Editors

HealthTap Editors

HealthTap articles are reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Visit https://www.healthtap.com/about-doctors/ 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 www.healthtap.com.
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