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UTIs: Natural remedies & tips for prevention.

Last Updated: August 20, 2021

Got an itch you just can’t scratch? Feel like you need to pee but can’t? We’ve got answers to your burning questions about UTIs to help you find relief ASAP.

Anyone who’s had a urinary tract infection before will tell you it’s no walk in the park. UTIs are painful, inconvenient, and if you noticed it on Friday, you have to live with the discomfort until the doctor’s office opens up on Monday.

Well, in the meantime, we’ve gathered the answers to all your burning questions about UTIs (pun intended) to get you feeling better ASAP.

First, what is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection that affects any part of the urinary tract system.

The urethra, bladder, kidneys, and ureters (little tubes that send urine from the kidneys to the bladder) are all susceptible to bacterial infection, but most infections enter the urinary tract and stick to the bladder and urethra.


Are UTIs different from yeast infections and bladder infections?

When a UTI is in your bladder it’s called a bladder infection, but the terms “UTI” and “bladder infection” are often used interchangeably.

A yeast infection, however, is caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. Symptoms of a yeast infection include itchiness, swelling of the vulva, and a thick, white discharge similar to cottage cheese.

Both infections are super common but are treated very differently. If you suspect something is amiss down there but you’re not sure what, check with your doctor.

What causes UTIs?

They’re caused by bacteria that enter your urethra and wreak havoc through your urinary tract system. The urethra is a tube that transports pee out of the bladder — kind of like an Ancient Roman aqueduct, but in your vulva.

In severe cases, the bacteria travels further through your urinary system and causes a kidney infection.

Many types of bacteria cause UTIs, but the most common culprit is E. coli, which is responsible for nearly 90% of infections. E. coli usually lives its best life in your intestinal tract but occasionally finds its way from your bum to your urethra and causes a bladder infection. Yes, we mean poop.

For folks with vulvas, this journey is a short one, and it’s easy for poop particles to wander up the road and accidentally infiltrate the urinary tract.

Once the bacteria enters your urethra, it starts to multiply and thus, the dreaded UTI is born.

UTI symptoms

Telltale signs of an infection include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Peeing frequently or feeling like you need to
  • Releasing only small amounts of pee at a time
  • Cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling pee
  • Burning or pain while peeing

How do you know if it’s a kidney infection?

If you have any of these symptoms accompanied by fever, nausea, lower back pain, or chills, it could be a sign that you have a kidney infection.

Left untreated, kidney infections can damage your kidneys or spread to your bloodstream and cause damage to vital organs. Seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect you have a kidney infection.

Penises and UTIs

Got a penis? You can get a UTI, too. While it’s less likely for people with penises to develop UTIs due to their longer urethras, it’s not impossible.

Symptoms to watch out for if you’re one of the endowed are the same as above with the addition of painful ejaculation.

Can you get UTIs from sex?

Illustration of cunnilingus

You don’t have to be sexually active to get a UTI, but the messy glory of sex does help spread unwanted bacteria from one place to another.

Here are a few other FAQs about sex and urinary tract infections.

Is a UTI a sexually transmitted disease?

Urinary tract infections aren’t considered an STD, and the infection itself isn’t contagious, but the bacteria responsible for causing the infection are able to travel between partners.

Can you have sex when you have a UTI?

Yes, but it isn’t recommended, and you probably won’t want to anyway (see: itching, burning, abdominal pain).

Having sex with a UTI pushes the bacteria further into your urinary tract and worsens the infection, so turn off your Hinge notifications and practice some self-care until your infection has been treated.

Can you treat a UTI naturally at home?

Spoiler alert: There’s no proven way to treat one from home. Oftentimes the longer you let it go, the more severe it gets.

You can try these at-home remedies to ease your symptoms while you wait for your doctor’s appointment.

At-home remedies for UTIs

Cranberry juice

The d-mannose in cranberries may help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and causing infection.

Sugar can irritate a UTI that’s in full swing, so choose unsweetened cranberry juice.

Blue candle illustration

Apply heat

Inflammation from UTIs causes pressure and pain around your lower stomach.

Grab a heating pad and lay it over your pelvic area to curb the ache or take a hot bath with some relaxing epsom salts.

Blue jar illustration

OTC pain relief

Ibuprofen only goes so far to soothe the painful burn of a UTI.

Products like Azo are made to target UTI symptoms for immediate relief, but read the directions before you take them as they’re not meant to be used for longer than two days. Azo turns pee neon orange, so don’t panic when your toilet looks radioactive.

Blessed with a UTI during your period? Check out our tips on natural remedies for PMS.

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When do you need antibiotics for a UTI?

Antibiotics are the only proven way to treat UTIs, so you’ll usually need to get some as soon as you’re experiencing the symptoms mentioned above. As soon as you think you have a UTI, make an appointment with your doctor.

Untreated UTIs can turn serious and become life-threatening. Make sure to take all of the medication prescribed, even if you start to feel better halfway through your treatment.

How to treat a UTI if you don’t have health insurance

It’s expensive to get a UTI treated at the doctor’s office if you don’t have health insurance, but there are cheaper options for the uninsured.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization with sliding scale fees based on your income. The only downside is that they’re usually booked out weeks in advance, and when you’ve got a UTI, you need fast relief.

Find a Planned Parenthood near you to see what days your clinic has walk-in appointments, then continue home treatments and OTC pain relief until you get in.

Online Rx

One of the many innovations the internet has brought us is the ability to order prescriptions online without a costly doctor’s appointment.

Websites like GoodRx have you fill out a form that’s seen by a provider who reviews your health claim and has antibiotics sent to your local pharmacy for $70 or less.

Walk-in clinics

Walk-in clinics like Urgent Care have nearly 10,000 centers across the US.

Their services are a bit more expensive than Planned Parenthood or an online Rx, but they’re still cheaper than the doctor’s office and most centers are open seven days a week.

How to prevent a UTI

Whoever said that prevention is the best medicine knew what they were talking about.

Pee after sex

We know it’s tempting to stay in bed while your partner grabs a towel to clean you up, but peeing after sex for people with vaginas and penises really is the best way to prevent UTIs.

Peeing flushes out any sneaky pathogens that weaseled their way in and prevents infection from taking hold — so go to the bathroom, then hop back in bed to enjoy your post-coital glow.

Wipe front to back

This prevention method is simple but effective. For people with vaginas, start wiping from your vagina and move toward your bum to stop any poo particles from migrating toward your urethra.

Stay hydrated

Drink at least 2 liters of water a day — or more, depending on your weight. Water helps flush out those gnarly pathogens to keep you UTI-free.

Reusable water bottles make it easy to #stayhydrated.

Don’t use spermicides

Spermicides and diaphragms kill the healthy vaginal flora, which gives the bad bacteria plenty of room to multiply and cause an infection.

Condoms can reduce the risk of UTIs — learn more about how to choose the right condoms for you in our handy dandy condom guide.

Don’t wear tight pants or synthetic underwear

This is especially true if you’re prone to recurrent UTIs.

Ditch the skinny jeans and nylon underwear and opt instead for mom jeans and a drawer full of cotton skivvies — this is especially important for people with vaginas. It will thank you.

A few more quick facts about UTIs

We’ve got a couple more answers to some commonly asked questions about UTIs.

Can stress cause UTIs?

There’s no evidence that stress is directly responsible for causing a UTI, but stress can weaken your immune system and make you more likely to develop one.

How long does a UTI last?

Most UTIs are treatable with a 3 to 7 day course of antibiotics.

Complicated UTIs, like those in the upper urinary tract, usually clear up after a 10 to 14 day treatment.

Can you die from a UTI?

A UTI that spreads to your bloodstream is potentially life-threatening. See your doctor if you experience UTI symptoms.

Can animals get UTIs?

Cats and dogs can get UTIs, too. Your pet’s UTI is also treatable with antibiotics.

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