Most people with a kidney infection can be treated at home with a course of antibiotics, and paracetamol if needed.
See your GP if you feel feverish and have pain in your tummy, lower back or genitals that won't go away.
You should also see a GP if you have symptoms of a UTI that haven't improved after a few days or if you have blood in your pee.
If you think your child has a UTI, even if it's just cystitis, make sure you see a GP or go to an out-of-hours emergency service.
If you're being treated at home, you'll usually be prescribed a course of antibiotic tablets or capsules that lasts between 7 and 14 days.
For most people, apart from pregnant women, antibiotics called ciprofloxacin or co-amoxiclav are recommended. Other antibiotics, such as trimethoprim, may also be used.
Common side effects of ciprofloxacin include diarrhoea and feeling sick. Co-amoxiclav can make the contraceptive pill and contraceptive patch less effective, so you may need to use another form of contraception during the course of treatment.
A 14-day course of an antibiotic called cefalexin is recommended for pregnant women.
Usually, you'll start to feel better quite soon after treatment starts and should feel completely better after about 2 weeks.
If your symptoms show no sign of improvement 24 hours after treatment starts, contact your GP for advice.
Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol should help relieve symptoms of pain and a high temperature.
However, anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen aren't normally recommended for a kidney infection – they may increase the risk of further kidney problems so shouldn't be taken unless advised by a doctor. A doctor may only prescribe these in certain circumstances.
Things you can try yourself
If you have a kidney infection, try not to "hover" over the toilet seat when you go to the loo because it can result in your bladder not being fully emptied.
It's also important for most people with a kidney infection to drink plenty of fluids (water is best) because this will help to flush out the bacteria from your kidneys. Aim to drink enough so that you're frequently passing pale-coloured urine.
If you have kidney failure, get advice from your doctor on how much to drink.
Make sure you get plenty of rest. A kidney infection can be physically draining, even if you're normally healthy and strong. It may take up to 2 weeks before you're fit enough to return to work.
Treatment at hospital
Your GP may refer you to hospital if you have an underlying problem that makes you vulnerable to kidney infections.
It's standard practice to further investigate all men with a kidney infection simply because the condition is much rarer in men. Women don't tend to be referred unless they've had 2 or more kidney infections.
Most children with a kidney infection will be treated in hospital.
Hospital treatment may also be needed if:
- you're severely dehydrated
- you're unable to swallow or keep down any fluids or medications
- you have additional symptoms that suggest you may have blood poisoning, such as a rapid heartbeat and losing consciousness
- you're pregnant and you also have a high temperature
- you're particularly frail and your general health is poor
- your symptoms fail to improve within 24 hours of starting treatment with antibiotics
- you have a weakened immune system
- you have something inside your urinary tract, such as a kidney stone or a urinary catheter
- you have diabetes
- you're over the age of 65
- you have an underlying condition that affects the way your kidneys work, such as polycystic kidney disease or chronic kidney disease
If you're admitted to hospital with a kidney infection, you'll probably be attached to a drip so you can be given fluids to help keep you hydrated. Antibiotics can also be given through the drip.
You'll have regular blood and urine tests to monitor your health and how effectively the antibiotics are fighting off the infection.
Most people respond well to treatment. As long as there are no complications, you should typically be well enough to leave hospital in 3 to 7 days.
Treatment will usually switch to tablets or capsules after you stop receiving antibiotics through a drip.
You may need further investigations if you get more than one kidney infection. Your GP or hospital specialist would arrange these tests for you.