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Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria make their way into your urinary tract (doy) and bladder. The result is painful urination, feeling like you have to go nonstop (even if you’re all emptied out), cloudy or bloody pee, and period-like pressure or cramping. Oh, and a general sense of misery.
While we wish we could wave a magic wand and damn those bacteria straight to hell (too violent?), the unfortunate truth is that UTIs can only be cured with antibiotics, according to the CDC. While some UTIs resolve on their own, untreated infections can get worse and spread to your kidneys. In other words: If you think you have one, see your doctor to get checked out and get a prescription right away.
That said, it can take a few days for the antibiotics to kick in. If you need some relief in the meantime — or are trying to figure out how to keep frequent UTIs from coming back — you’ve got some options.
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Antibiotics are the only way to successfully cure a UTI. When looking at over-the-counter (OTC) options, we stuck with analgesic meds designed to temporarily relieve UTI-related pain. As for preventive products? The jury’s still out on whether OTC products are effective, but we specifically sought out options whose active ingredients were supported by science.
Bottom line: Doctor knows best
We know we just talked about this, but it’s worth repeating: Chat with your healthcare professional before trying any of the remedies below.
Try these at-home treatments while you’re waiting to get your antibiotics (or waiting for them to kick in). And while you’re at it, drink as much water as you can. Peeing often will help flush out more of the gunk and hopefully help you feel better a little faster.
This is basically like Tylenol or Motrin for your urinary tract. It uses a different active ingredient — phenazopyridine hydrochloride — but the function is pretty much the same. It’ll temporarily numb the tissue around your urinary tract to make the whole situation down there a little more tolerable. You can expect relief in as little as 20 minutes that lasts up to 8 hours.
However, note that this can make your urine reddish-orange tinged and can stain fabric. Also don’t take it for more than 2 days.
These pills pack a one-two punch to fight pain and help your prescription antibiotics work a little better. They contain the analgesic sodium salicylate to temporarily take the inflammation down a notch and ease your discomfort. They’ve also got methenamine, an OTC antibiotic that can be helpful for fighting bladder and kidney infections.
FYI, this doesn’t mean Cystex is enough to treat your UTI alone. While methenamine can be helpful, it’s usually only recommended after starting a course of prescription antibiotics.
Here are the deets on D-mannose: It’s a type of sugar that occurs naturally in some fruits and veg that could potentially help with recurring UTIs.
Studies suggest that the sugar could make it harder for UTI-causing bacteria to stick to the lining of your urinary tract, potentially thwarting an infection. These vegetarian capsules deliver a dose of D-mannose along with hibiscus flower extract, which animal studies have shown can fight inflammation in the urinary tract.
This sippable, which tastes like pink lemonade, also delivers D-mannose to help keep recurrent UTIs at bay. It’ll keep you peeing on the reg to flush out any lingering bacteria too, thanks to mild electrolytes like calcium which act as a diuretic.
Also? Pee that’s too acidic has the potential to up your UTI risk. Target delivers alkalizing ingredients like potassium citrate and citric acid to help bring your pee back to a healthier pH, possibly fighting UTIs from another front.
Heard the word that drinking cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs? It might, but taking cranberry juice extract or supplements can work too. This daily pill serves up the cranberry fruit extract proanthocyandins without the sugar you’d get from guzzling a glass of juice. Like D-mannose, it’s thought that cranberry fruit extract could make it harder for opportunistic bacteria to stick to your urinary tract and cause an infection.
If UTIs are caused by bad bacteria, can taking probiotics help keep them from forming in the first place? Maybe. Some bacterial strains have been ID’ed as potentially being helpful for promoting a healthy vaginal microbiome, but experts can’t yet say for sure that taking probiotic supplements will reduce your UTI risk.
But if you want to give it a try, this is def a good option. It’s got a mix of probiotics thought to support vaginal health like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, plus cranberry extract for a little extra oomph.
Only prescription antibiotics can successfully treat a UTI, so if you think you’ve got one, call your doc ASAP. But OTC pain relievers can make you more comfy in the meantime, and taking certain preventive supplements could keep relentless UTIs from coming back.