UTI advice what to believe and what to ignore

Suffering with the agony of a urinary infection or UTI you’ve probably been given some well-meaning advice from a friend or half remembered that article on cranberry juice you saw in a magazine months ago.

Google is full of ‘quick fixes’ for UTI you’d think it’d be simple to get over a urinary infection. But there are some big persistent myths out there about urinary tract infections or UTIs it can be really hard to find the right advice.

But these myths could well be stopping you getting better or stopping you get the right diagnosis to start with. So we’d like to debunk them.

You don’t need to see a doctor it’ll go away if …

Get to your GP as soon as you can. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to getting better quickly.

Describe all your symptoms – write a list before you go in case you forget any.

Your doctor might do a dipstick test to look for an infection. But there’s a big problem with the tests used to diagnose UTI. They miss around 70% of infections. This Guardian article explains why.

So describing all your symptoms is key to getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment.

Cranberry juice will cure your UTI

Why won’t this one just go away? Drinking cranberry juice to cure a UTI doesn’t work. It’s not even debated by scientists and doctors. There’s no research to back up the claim.

In fact drinking lots of cranberry juice might well make you feel worse. There’s a lot of sugar in cranberry juice. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your bladder and your gut and makes them grow. Sugar is also a best friend to thrush, which you might get from too much bad bacteria, or because your immune system is weak from your infection or from taking antibiotics. Thrush and a UTI is not fun.

Flush out a UTI with lots of water

We’ve all heard this one. Drink lots and lots of water to ‘wash away’ the bacteria causing the infection. For starters you’ll end up peeing more, which you’re probably already doing and painfully so.

Your urine contains natural defense chemicals against infection, so drinking lots of water dilutes them and stops them working so well.

If you do need to see your GP and a urine sample is required to check your urine for infection, drinking too much water will make it too dilute for the tests to diagnose an infection.

If you’re taking antibiotics for your infection drinking lots of extra water will also dilute the antibiotic making it less effective.

And if you have an embedded infection (when an infection hasn’t gone away and the bacteria has entered the cells lining the bladder) then no amount of drinking water will flush away the bad bacteria. It’s sat nicely in cells where antibiotics can’t even touch them.

When you feel better stop taking antibiotics right away

Finish the course. Even if you start to feel better.

Too short a course of antibiotics can fail to clear a UTI properly, so your symptoms might well come back.

And if you finish your course of antibiotics and you still don’t feel better go back to your GP. You might need a longer course or different type to kill the infection once and for all. If not the infection could well hang around for weeks or months,  gradually get worse, and harder to cure.

We don’t want this to be a scare story but there are well over a million people in the UK alone who have chronic infections from UTIs that never cleared up.

But what about antibiotic resistance?

There’s loads in the news about antibiotic resistance. But repeated short courses of antibiotics, weeks or months apart are the real gift to bugs.  Sadly this science is often missing from the headlines. The same goes for prophylactic doses  (often short courses of low-dose antibiotics given to prevent an infection recurring).

For UTIs new research suggests that longer courses of antibiotics not only work to cure infections but do not create antimicrobial resistance.

In the words of Sir Alexander Fleming, who discoverer of penicillin the first antibiotic, “If you use penicillin, use enough”.

Getting the right treatment, at the right time is key. If you’re taking a course of antibiotics that’s too short it might fail to completely kill the infection. It’ll stick around, flaring up over the next few weeks, or months.