Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common and uncomfortable situation. More than half of women experience UTIs in their lifetimes . These infections occur when bacteria cause pain and inflammation in the structures of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, ureters, or kidneys. UTIs cause symptoms such as:
Most UTIs require antibiotics for treatment. Some uncomplicated infections may clear up on their own in a week or two. However, there is a risk of the infection getting worse without treatment. Untreated urinary tract infections can cause kidney damage. If the infection spreads to other parts of the body, it can lead to sepsis .
There are no over-the-counter UTI medications that contain antibiotics. You will need to see a doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics.
There are over-the-counter UTI medicines that can improve UTI symptoms. Taking these medications can make you feel better while you're treating the UTI. In addition, some over-the-counter UTI meds can be taken regularly to prevent future UTIs.
What Can I Take for UTI Over the Counter?
You can purchase different UTI medicines over the counter. Many of the available over-the-counter UTI remedies are effective at managing symptoms related to UTIs. Other over-the-counter UTI medicines and supplements can help reduce the risk of getting recurrent UTIs.
Phenazopyridine is an over-the-counter medicine for UTIs that helps reduce discomfort. Doctors can prescribe a higher strength dosage if the OTC medication isn’t effective enough. Phenazopyridine has been used for alleviating UTI symptoms since the early 1900s and, at the time, doctors mistakenly believed it had antibacterial properties. After the discovery of antibiotics in the 1930s, doctors continued to recommend phenazopyridine for UTIs because it was so effective at alleviating discomfort.
The active ingredient in phenazopyridine is an azo dye (an organic dye with a structure that includes two nitrogen atoms bonded to each other) and it can be taken in pill form. The exact mechanism of action is unclear but experts believe phenazopyridine reduces nerve sensitivity in the mucosal tissue inside the bladder. As a result, it reduces bladder pain and pain with urination during UTIs.
Most people feel the effects of phenazopyridine within an hour of taking a dose. You can take phenazopyridine up to three times per day for several days. Doctors don't recommend using it for more than three days since it can mask symptoms that indicate a need for additional treatment. The dye in phenazopyridine turns urine a dark orange color, which can stain fabrics .
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can improve symptoms such as pain and fever that might accompany a UTI. Unlike phenazopyridine, which mainly reduces pain in the urinary tract itself, acetaminophen and ibuprofen reduce pain and swelling throughout the whole body.
Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine that blocks the production of prostaglandins, a neurotransmitter that tells the brain to produce inflammation and pain signals at the site of an injury or infection. As a result, pain and inflammation are reduced.
Acetaminophen reduces pain by preventing the brain from getting the signals from prostaglandins. Acetaminophen reduces the sensation of pain but does not address inflammation .
You can take these medications according to the package directions or ask your doctor about dosing.
D-mannose is a type of naturally occurring sugar that is available in powder form as a dietary supplement .
Some research shows that D-mannose may be useful for treating and preventing UTIs by making it more difficult for bacteria to take hold. UTIs occur when harmful bacteria grow rapidly in the urinary tract. Bacteria can adhere to the cells within the urinary tract and cannot be easily washed away by the fluids that naturally pass through the area. Research suggests that D-mannose can prevent that adhesion so that the body can remove bacteria naturally .
Some studies indicate that D-mannose is more effective at preventing UTIs than managing them once they have begun. Other research shows it can be helpful as a treatment as well. Experts agree that more research is needed.
Cranberry juice is one of the most common recommendations for dealing with UTI discomfort. There is anecdotal evidence that drinking cranberry juice reduces pain with urination during a UTI. Some experts believe that the main benefit of drinking cranberry juice is that it increases hydration, which in turn, makes urinating more comfortable. Cranberry is also a source of natural d-mannose, which may inhibit bacteria from attaching to the inside of the urinary tract .
You can learn more about the science behind cranberry juice and supplements dosage recommendations for preventing UTIs in this article.
Ascorbic acid, the main component of vitamin C, may help prevent UTIs. Researchers have found that vitamin C can prevent bacteria from multiplying, though it does not kill or remove existing bacteria. The research suggests that taking vitamin C regularly can reduce your risk of getting a UTI. You can increase your vitamin C intake by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables or by taking vitamin C supplements .
Human bodies contain billions of microorganisms that make up the microbiome. The microbiome contains a combination of “good” and “bad” organisms and they typically balance each other out. When the harmful microorganisms outnumber the good ones, an infection such as a UTI can occur.
Probiotics are supplements that introduce beneficial microorganisms into the body. There is some research that suggests that the good bacteria in probiotic supplements may be able to balance out the harmful bacteria that cause UTIs. Research on probiotics for treating and preventing UTIs is promising but the majority of studies relied on probiotics delivered via vagina suppositories. One study showed good results with oral probiotics but more study is needed to fully understand how oral probiotics can help with UTIs .
Talk to your doctor about what types of probiotics may be helpful and what dose you should be using.
To know more about UTI’s treatment refer to our blog about home remedies.
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Other UTI Treatment Tips
You can try other non-antibiotic options to make yourself more comfortable during a UTI. Drinking plenty of fluids can help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. More fluid can also make urination more comfortable since urine will be more dilute and less irritating to urinary tract tissue.
You should also urinate when you feel the urge, even if the urges are frequent. Urinating flushes bacteria from your bladder. If you wait to pee, the bacteria remain in the urinary tract longer and have more opportunity to proliferate.
You can help prevent UTIs by staying well hydrated. Regularly washing your genital area will help remove bacteria from the skin around your urinary opening. Urinating after sexual intercourse may also help flush out bacteria before an infection can occur.
Over-the-Counter UTI Test
Prompt treatment of UTIs is essential. Home urine dipstick tests can confirm the presence of a UTI so that you can begin taking steps to treat it. The Diagnox UTI test detects urinary tract infections by measuring inflammation and bacterial activity in the urinary tract. It works like dipstick tests used in doctors' offices and provides diagnoses in just two minutes.
After you confirm that you have an infection by using a UTI over-the-counter test, you can call your doctor to discuss antibiotics. You can also begin using over-the-counter UTI medications to relieve your symptoms. You can continue to use the home UTI dipstick to track your treatment strategy's effectiveness.
For further information about the use of UTI Test, check out our blog.
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About the Author
Rebekah has been writing about culture, health, and politics since 2010. She has a masters degree in Arts Policy and Administration from The Ohio State University. Her work has been seen at WebMD, The Candidly, MedicineNet, YourTango, Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, Salon, Role Reboot, The Good Men Project, SheSaid, Huffington Post, and Mamamia. She is a former cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union. Rebekah lives in Maryland with her husband, two kids, and a dog who sheds a lot.
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