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Young woman with UTI symptoms wondering how to get rid of a UTI without medication

How can I get rid of a UTI in 24 hours without medication?

Written on December 22, 2022 by Amy Harris, MPH, RN. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Table of contents


A UTI is a urinary tract infection, and as anyone who has had a UTI knows, they are not very enjoyable. UTIs are very common and show up at the most inconvenient times [1]. In today’s world, it can be time-consuming, expensive, and downright impossible to get an appointment with a healthcare provider for treatment. So it makes sense to wonder whether you can get rid of a UTI in 24 hours without medication.

How do you know if it is a UTI?

Some people might answer this question with the annoying quip, “when you know, you know.” But when it comes to UTIs, diagnosis is not always that easy. The most common symptoms of a UTI are [2]:

  • Needing to pee often (urinary frequency)
  • Feeling like you need to pee even when you don’t have to (urinary urgency)
  • Leaking urine (incontinence)
  • Pain or burning when peeing
  • Feeling pain in your side or lower back
  • Fever, tiredness
  • Pressure in your lower belly
  • Pelvic pain
  • Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy or reddish

UTI symptoms can also come and go, fooling you into thinking that you may not have an infection. While UTIs are 30 times more common in people with vaginas, people with penises can also get UTIs [1]. Just to confuse matters, STIs can cause UTI-like symptoms in people with penises, such as [3]:

  • Urinary frequency and urgency
  • Pain and burning with urination

The medications used to treat a UTI and an STI are different, so talk with a healthcare provider about your symptoms.

Bacteria cause UTIs

Most UTIs are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), which lives naturally in your body [4]. So, unless you take the right antibiotic (a medication that treats bacteria), you cannot get rid of your UTI.

A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter your urinary tract through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from your bladder through your penis or urethra (in people with vaginas). It is easier for people with vaginas to get UTIs because their urethra is situated right next door to their vagina and anus, where there tend to be lots of E. coli naturally hanging out [2].

Cystitis (bacterial infection of the bladder) is the most common type of UTI [4]. Your bladder stores urine (that comes from your kidneys) until you can empty the urine into the toilet. The tissue lining of your bladder becomes inflamed when you have a UTI. This bladder inflammation causes many of your agonizing UTI symptoms like frequency, urgency, pain, and burning with urination [5].

What, besides medication, can I do to feel better?

While only antibiotics will get rid of a UTI, you can take steps to try to feel better while you wait for the antibiotics to work. First, as with other infections, getting rest can help boost your immune system and help your body get rid of the bacteria causing your UTI.

The next most important thing you can do is to drink, drink, and drink some more water. When you are running to pee every two seconds, you might be tempted to drink less, but getting dehydrated (not having enough fluids in your body) will not help you feel better. You empty your bladder and flush away the bacteria each time you pee. The longer you hold your urine in your bladder, the longer the bacteria have to make themselves at home, making your infection worse [6].

Sticking to water and steering clear of other beverages and foods that can irritate your bladder lining will help you feel better. If you think you have a UTI, try to avoid these bladder irritants [5]:

  • Alcohol
  • Citrus juices or fruits
  • Caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, energy drinks)
  • Carbonated drinks (soda, seltzer)
  • Cranberry-containing beverages

But what if you try these self-care measures but still aren’t feeling better, is there something else you can take besides medication for your UTI?

Can I get rid of a UTI without medication?

No. You can take over-the-counter medications that might help your symptoms feel better, but they will not get rid of your UTI or the bacteria causing the infection. Examples of these types of medications are acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen and NSAIDs (Advil), and phenazopyridine hydrochloride (AZO or Uristat). So, while you may feel like you got rid of your UTI in 24 hours, you may be putting yourself at risk for a more severe infection called pyelonephritis.

Pyelonephritis is when an infection of your urethra or bladder goes up into your kidneys. Symptoms of a kidney infection can include [7]:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Lower back pain or pain in the side of your back
  • Nausea or vomiting

Pyelonephritis can develop easily and quickly. It is serious because it can cause swelling in your kidneys that will permanently damage them [8].

Aren’t cranberries or cranberry juice a treatment for UTIs?

No. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there is no evidence showing cranberries, cranberry juice, or cranberry supplements can treat UTIs [9]. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NCCIH, there is limited evidence that daily consumption of specified amounts of cranberry dietary supplements or beverages may reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs in healthy women who have had a UTI [9]. The bottom line is that if you think you have a UTI, you should see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Everlywell offers answers to your UTI questions

It can be helpful to rule out an STI as a cause of your UTI symptoms. Everlywell’s suite of at-home STI tests can help determine whether you need medication to treat an STI. Everlywell has tests for many common sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomonas, all of which can cause symptoms that can mimic UTI symptoms in both people with penises or vaginas [3,10].

Everlywell also offers UTI treatment online via telehealth. You can schedule a same-day telehealth appointment with an Everlywell healthcare provider who may prescribe medications for treatment, if applicable. While not all urinary symptoms mean you have a UTI, it is important to have a healthcare provider evaluate whether or not you need medication to feel better faster.

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References

  1. Foxman B. Epidemiology of urinary tract infections: incidence, morbidity, and economic costs. Am J Med. 2002;113 Suppl 1A:5S-13S. doi:10.1016/s0002-9343(02)01054-9. URL.
  2. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). MedlinePlus. URL. Updated August 8, 2016. Accessed December 18, 2022.
  3. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. URL. Updated May 5, 2022. Accessed December 20, 2022.
  4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Mayo Clinic. Updated September 14, 2022. URL. Accessed December 20, 2022.
  5. Bladder-irritating Foods. Cleveland Clinic. Updated. Accessed December 20, 2022. URL.
  6. Beetz R. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of urinary tract infection? Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57 Suppl 2:S52-S58. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601902. URL.
  7. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Updated October 6, 2021. Accessed December 20, 2022.
  8. Symptoms and Causes of Kidney Infections (Pyelonephritis). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. URL. Updated April 2017. Accessed December 20, 2022.
  9. Cranberry. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. URL. Updated May 2020. Accessed December 20, 2022.
  10. Shapiro T, Dalton M, Hammock J, Lavery R, Matjucha J, Salo DF. The prevalence of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted disease in women with symptoms of a simple urinary tract infection stratified by low colony count criteria. Acad Emerg Med. 2005;12(1):38-44. doi:10.1197/j.aem.2004.08.051. URL.
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