Urinary Tract Infections... The Burning Truth

Going to the loo is a regular part of our daily routine. So when something feels slightly off, we notice it in an instant. Are you feeling like you always need to pee, only to experience an uncomfortable burning sensation when you do? These are a few symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection affecting the bladder and kidneys. They primarily affect women but men can also get a UTI. Urinary tract infections are unpleasant and uncomfortable. Luckily, there are ways to treat a UTI and ways to reduce the risk of one returning.

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Symptoms of a UTI

  • Feeling like you always need to urinate even if you don’t
  • A burning or irritating feeling whilst you pee
  • Your urine appears cloudy and smells
  • Back and stomach discomfort
  • High temperature
  • Fatigue, nausea, or loss of appetite
  • In severe cases, blood in your pee
Woman with UTI stomach pains

Types of Urinary Tract Infections

Uncomplicated UTIs

An uncomplicated UTI is fairly common and is experienced by non-pregnant, immune-competent women who are otherwise healthy, the infection is unlikely to develop into other risks such as kidney damage or septicaemia, and the UTI will clear up on its own after a few days.

Complicated UTIs

Complicated UTIs don’t respond to regular treatment due to the possibility of underlying factors, this includes being immunocompromised (e.g. on chemotherapy), transplants, age, being pregnant, and being a biological male.

Those who come up against a complicated UTI are more at risk of recurrent UTIs, kidney failure or treatment failure. If you’re unsure if your UTI is complicated or not, speak to your pharmacist and they’ll advise you on if you need to see your GP.

Recurrent UTIs

Some women may unfortunately experience regular urinary tract infections. Although they may simply be prone to UTIs, risk factors include intercourse and changes to the body following menopause.

To prevent UTIs from becoming recurrent, stay well hydrated, ensure the area is kept clean and don’t hold it in - urinate regularly, especially after sex.

Chronic UTIs

Some people may experience long-term UTIs that short-term antibiotics won’t work on. These infections are difficult to pick up on in urine tests and are therefore difficult to diagnose. Long-term antibiotics are needed to treat chronic UTIs and you may be referred to a specialist to learn how to deal with the impacts.

Woman with stomach pain and with chronic UTI

Are UTIs painful?

UTIs are uncomfortable and can be painful. They can impact your day-to-day life and ruin your plans. Luckily they can be treated so that they don’t last for too long.

How to treat a UTI

If you’re looking to discreetly look for advice on how to cope with an uncomplicated UTI, you can speak to your pharmacist who will recommend painkillers. However if you, or your child, is experiencing a UTI for the first time, or you think your UTI may be complicated, see a GP. They may do a urine test, recommend painkillers, and may prescribe you some antibiotics.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, Hey Pharmacist can help you to keep track of your orders and let you know when to re-order, so that your recovery is smooth and simple.

How to treat a UTI at home

Painkillers like paracetamol will help reduce the pain and temperature that come with a UTI. The NHS recommend paracetamol over NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin.

Make sure that you drink plenty of fluid and stay well rested. You want your urine to be pale or clear. You should avoid swimming or bathing if you have a UTI due to the bacteria present. You should also avoid having sex if you’ve got a UTI. Intercourse could have been the cause so it’s best to wait until you’ve recovered.

Woman with a UTI and stomach pains

How to prevent a UTI

Although most women will experience a UTI at one point or another, there are ways you can prevent them from returning and becoming a regular annoyance. Most importantly, ensure that your area is kept clean and dry, it may be worth changing some habits, for example, choose to shower instead of a bath, you should also wash the area and skin around it after sex.

Ensuring that you’re always hydrated will help avoid a UTI, as not drinking enough water could increase the risk of one due to highly concentrated urine irritating the area.

How your pharmacist can help

Like everything health-related, your pharmacist can offer personal advice on help to get better from a UTI and suggest the best painkillers. Your pharmacist will also advise you to see a GP about your symptoms.