Treating UTIs: When to Go to a Hospital

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common yet potentially serious infections that affect millions of people annually. They can cause discomfort, pain, and inconvenience. The good news is that UTIs can be treated effectively with prompt medical attention, but knowing the red flags of a UTI and when to go to the hospital can be a life-saving decision. 

In this blog, we’ll explore everything you need to know about UTIs, from their symptoms and causes to the vital distinction between seeking care at an urgent care center or the emergency room. 

Everything to Know about UTIs

Common Causes 

Urinary tract infections are primarily caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. The most common type of bacteriaresponsible for UTIs is Escherichia coli (E. coli). These bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply in the bladder, leading to infection. Other less common causes can include viruses and fungi.

UTI Symptoms

  • Frequent Urination
  • Strong Smelling Urine
  • Burning Sensation
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Cloudy or Bloody Urine
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and Chills
  • Nausea and Vomiting

Risk Factors 

  • Women are more prone to UTIs due to their shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
  • Sexual intercourse can introduce bacteria into the urethra, increasing the risk of UTIs.
  • Structural issues in the urinary tract can create pockets where bacteria can accumulate.
  • Urinary catheters can introduce bacteria into the bladder, making catheter-associated UTIs common in healthcare settings.
  • Changes in hormone levels can affect the urinary tract’s defenses in postmenopausal women.
  • Conditions like diabetes or HIV can increase susceptibility to infections.

Types of UTIs

Lower UTIs (Cystitis) affect the bladder and are characterized by symptoms such as frequent urination, a strong urge to urinate, burning during urination, and lower abdominal discomfort.

Upper UTIs (Pyelonephritis) are more severe infections involving the kidneys and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Symptoms may include fever, nausea, vomiting, back or flank pain, and general malaise.

woman treating a UTI at home

Treating UTIs at Home

While UTIs require medical attention for effective treatment, there are several home remedies and preventative measures you can incorporate into your routine to reduce your risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).

  • Drinking plenty of water, about eight to ten glasses of water daily, helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. 
  • Some studies suggest that cranberry juice or supplements may help prevent UTIs by interfering with the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract lining. However, consult your healthcare provider before relying solely on cranberry products.
  • Non-prescription pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can provide temporary relief from UTI symptoms, such as pelvic pain and discomfort.
  • Maintain good personal hygiene, especially after using the toilet. Wiping from front to back can help prevent the spread of bacteria from the anal area to the urethra.
  • Avoid harsh soaps, bubble baths, and feminine hygiene products that may irritate the genital area and disrupt the urinary tract’s natural defenses.
woman talking to a doctor about her UTI

When to Seek Medical Attention

UTIs are common and usually treatable with antibiotics. However, there are situations where seeking medical attention at an urgent care center or even the emergency room becomes necessary. 

Knowing when to seek medical care is crucial to prevent complications and ensure prompt treatment. These situations include the following: 

  • Your UTI symptoms persist or worsen after 1-2 days of home remedies or over-the-counter pain relievers. 
  • Intense pelvic pain, back pain, or lower abdominal pain can be a sign of a more severe infection or the presence of akidney stone. 
  • Experiencing a high fever (typically above 101°F or 38.3°C) may be a sign of a kidney infection (pyelonephritis). 
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting, especially when accompanied by other UTI symptoms, suggest that the infection has reached the kidneys or other complications are developing.
  • If you notice pink, red, or brownish urine, it may indicate blood in the urinary tract, which can be a sign of a more severe UTI or other underlying issues. 
  • If you have a history of kidney stones and experience UTI symptoms, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider promptly, as it may require specialized treatment.
  • Certain individuals are at higher risk for severe UTIs, including pregnant women, individuals with weakened immune systems, and the elderly. 
  • If you’ve had complications from UTIs in the past, such as kidney damage or recurrent infections, consult a healthcare provider early to prevent further issues.

Quality, Compassionate Care

Remember that UTIs can progress quickly, and timely medical care is essential to prevent complications. Urgent care centers are suitable for many UTIs, but severe cases may necessitate a visit to the emergency room, especially if symptoms indicate a kidney infection or if you have a high fever, severe pain, or vomiting. UTIs are typically caused by bacteria and can often be effectively treated, but ignoring or delaying treatment can lead to kidney damage or even life-threatening situations, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention when in doubt.

Austin Emergency Center is here to provide rapid and comprehensive medical care for UTIs, ensuring you receive the prompt attention you need. Visit our website to find the nearest location and get the care you deserve.