Published Dec 21, 2023

How long does a UTI last?

Dr. Sudip Bose
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sudip Bose
Young woman lying on mattress on the floor in sunlit with closed eyes
Published Dec 21, 2023

Key Points:

  • Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria. Symptoms include pain and burning with urination, pelvic pain, strong-smelling urine or having to pee often.
  • Most urinary tract infections clear up in a few days when treated with antibiotics. Other medications can help with pain and discomfort.
  • Talk to your provider if you still have symptoms after a few days of taking antibiotics. You may need a different medication.

If you’re suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI), you probably want to know, “When will I start to feel better?!” The good news is that UTI medicines can help you feel better fast—if you get treated quickly.

Here’s everything you need to know about how long UTIs last. Plus, how to get same-day treatment with a $15 online UTI consultation from Dr. B.

What causes UTIs?

A UTI is an infection of the urinary system. This system includes the urethra, bladder, ureters and kidneys. They happen when bacteria grow and spread anywhere in this system.

UTIs are most common in people assigned female at birth (AFAB). That’s because their shorter urethra is close to bacteria-rich areas like the vagina and anus. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urethra and move up the urinary system.

You can prevent UTIs by taking steps like:

  • Peeing after sex
  • Staying hydrated
  • Always wipe from front to back
  • Avoid irritating vaginal products (like douches or sprays)
  • Check your birth control (some methods can increase the risk of a UTI)

How do I know if it’s a UTI?

More than 50% of all AFAB people experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime. So most people will recognize the symptoms of a UTI right away.

UTI symptoms include:

  • A strong urge to pee—even if you just went
  • Strong-smelling or cloudy urine
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pink or red-tinged urine
  • Frequently peeing small amounts

Other conditions can cause similar symptoms, including some sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That’s why talking to a provider before taking any medication is essential.

Also, if you develop other concerning symptoms, see a medical provider immediately. Symptoms like fever, chills, new back pain or nausea could be a sign that the infection has spread to the kidneys and become a kidney infection.

How long does a UTI last?

Uncomplicated UTIs usually improve in one to five days if treated with antibiotics. If the infection is severe or spreads to the bladder (causing a bladder infection), recovery can take up to two weeks.

Recovery time and treatment depend on issues like:

  • The type of UTI you have
  • How long you’ve had symptoms
  • How severe your symptoms are
  • Whether you’ve had another UTI recently
  • How far the infection has spread

How long do UTIs last without antibiotics? UTIs can get better on their own if untreated. But symptoms could last several weeks. There’s also a risk that the infection could spread to the kidneys, causing serious problems.

UTI treatment options

The good news is that treatments are available to help UTI symptoms clear up quickly. Here’s what your provider may recommend if you have a UTI.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are the standard treatment for urinary tract infections. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for UTIs include:

  • Cephalexin
  • Trimethoprim and Sulfamethoxazole (brand name: Bactrim and Bactrim DS)
  • Nitrofurantoin Monohydrate Macrocrystals (brand name: Macrobid)

UTIs are one of the most common reasons providers prescribe antibiotics. But there’s growing concern that antibiotic overuse could cause other problems. The more antibiotics you use, the more likely bacteria will grow resistant—which means antibiotics won’t work anymore. And antibiotics can cause other issues, like diarrhea or vaginal yeast infections.

Still, antibiotics are an essential part of UTI treatment. If you think you have a UTI—or if you suffer from recurrent UTIs—talk to your provider about treatment options. They can make sure you’re using antibiotics safely.

Medications for pain and discomfort

Antibiotics can help you recover faster—but they don’t treat UTI pain and irritation. Luckily, other options can ease symptoms while antibiotics get to work.

Over-the-counter Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen are good choices for mild pain and discomfort. These medicines are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Some evidence shows that NSAIDs can help clear up mild UTIs without antibiotics.

For intense symptoms, Phenazopyridine (and its brand name, Pyridium) can help soothe the pain.

Home remedies for UTIs

Seek help immediately if you experience fever, shaking or chills, nausea or vomiting, severe pain or bloody urine. And people with risk factors like pregnancy, diabetes or older age should get treatment right away. (UTIs can be more dangerous for such people.) But if you’re not at higher risk, it’s usually okay to wait a few days to see if your UTI clears on its own.

These home remedies can help support your immune system in the meantime:

  • Drink lots of fluids, especially water
  • Take cranberry supplements or drink cranberry juice
  • Always wipe front to back to avoid spreading bacteria
  • Make sure to pee after sexual activity
  • Avoid irritating products in the vaginal area, like douches or body sprays

Banner advertising Dr. B's services for UTI treatments

Where to get UTI treatments

Treatments for UTIs are available through your medical provider and many urgent care clinics. Your provider will ask about your symptoms, how often you get UTIs and whether you have any other medical issues or medication allergies. They may also take a urine sample for a urine culture (test).

Looking for convenient UTI relief—without the waiting room?  Dr. B offers same-day online consultations for prescription UTI treatments. To start, complete a short health questionnaire about your symptoms and health history. A licensed medical provider will review your information. If appropriate, they’ll send a prescription to the pharmacy of your choice.

Sources:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Foxman, B., & Buxton, M. (2013). Alternative approaches to conventional treatment of acute uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women. Current infectious disease reports.

Goebel, M. C., et al. (2021). The five Ds of outpatient antibiotic stewardship for urinary tract infections. Clinical microbiology reviews.

Imam, T. H. (2022). Overview of urinary tract infections. Merck Manual Commercial Version.

Medina, M., et al. (2019). An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections. Therapeutic Advances in Urology.

Zhang, Yu et al. (2020). Efficacy of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for treatment of uncomplicated lower urinary tract infections in women: a meta-analysis. Infectious Microbes & Diseases.

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