Austin Women's Health Center Blog&Inspiration

How Long Does It Take Antibiotics To Work For UTI

March 30, 2023

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB). UTIs can range from uncomfortable and painful to dangerous. Even though UTIs are common, left untreated, they can lead to severe complications. Learning the signs of a UTI can help you spot and treat them sooner. 


What is the urinary tract?

Your urinary tract makes and stores urine and removes it from your body. With a UTI present, any part of the urinary tract, the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys, may become infected. 


What causes urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Usually, your urinary tract keeps out bacteria that cause infections. The process of urination helps flush bacteria from your system. But sometimes, bacteria find their way into the urinary tract and can multiply. The most common UTI-causing bacteria is Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is found in fecal matter.


How Long Does it Take For Antibiotics to Work On UTIs?

The time it takes for antibiotics to work on a urinary tract infection can vary depending on several factors, including the type of antibiotic prescribed, the severity of the infection, and someone’s overall health. In general, most people start to feel better within a few days of starting antibiotics.

For uncomplicated UTIs, which are infections that only involve the bladder and don’t spread to the kidneys, most antibiotics will start to work within one to three days. Symptoms such as pain and burning during urination, frequent urination, and urgency should begin to improve during this time. However, it’s still crucial to complete the full course of antibiotics as your healthcare provider prescribes to ensure the infection is completely cleared, even if your symptoms have improved.

If the UTI is more severe, such as a kidney infection, it may take longer for antibiotics to start working. In these cases, symptoms may take several days to a week to improve, and it may take several weeks to fully recover. 


What are the symptoms of a UTI?

It is possible to have a UTI without realizing it, but most people with an infection in the urethra or bladder have one or more of the following symptoms:

– pain or stinging when you urinate
– an urge to pass urine often, but only a small amount of urine comes out
– pressure in your lower belly
– urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
– pressure or pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis

If you notice blood in your urine, tell a doctor right away.

If an infection has spread to your upper urinary tract, the urethras, or kidneys, you may also have:

– nausea or vomiting
– pain in the backside of your waist
– nausea or vomiting
– fever
– chills 


Who is likely to get a UTI?

Women and those assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more susceptible to UTIs because they have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the tract. The urethra is a hollow tube where urine passes through the bladder and leaves the body. Men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) also get UTIs, but at lesser rates. 

 Some medical conditions, such as kidney stones or diabetes, also make it easier to get a UTI. Being sexually active can also increase the risk of UTIs. Birth control methods with spermicide, such as cervical caps or diaphragms, can also increase the chances of UTIs. Other risk factors include a suppressed immune system, urinary tract problems, or catheter use. Previous UTIs can also increase the risk of getting one in the future. 


How do I know if I have a UTI?

You need to see your doctor to find out for sure if you have a UTI. To test your urine, the doctor or nurse will give you a clean plastic cup to collect a urine sample. The sample is then sent to a lab and analyzed for bacteria, white blood cells, or red blood cells. You may be instructed to cleanse front to back with an antiseptic wipe before giving a sample and to collect the urine mid-stream. Be sure to follow instructions carefully so that you provide a sufficient sample to test.


RELATED: What to Expect at Your First Gynecologist Appointment

How is a UTI treated?

It’s essential to treat a UTI as soon as possible because the infection can spread to other parts of your body, like the kidneys, which often has more serious symptoms.

A UTI is treated with antibiotics, which kill the bacteria causing the infection. Many people feel better in a few days, but it is very important that you take all of your medicine for as long as it was prescribed. If you stop taking antibiotics too soon, the bacteria can return and make the infection worse.

Once you are diagnosed, you may also take the drug phenazopyridine hydrochloride (AZO) for urinary tract pain. Although AZO is available over the counter, it is essential to get a prescription for antibiotics from your doctor because AZO will not cure an infection.


Is there anything I can do to prevent a UTI?

– urinate as soon as you feel the need
– drink water and urinate before and after sex
– always wipe from front to back when using the toilet
– clean your vagina and anus every day in a shower
– don’t use douches, sprays, or similar products
– wear cotton underpants and loose clothing, which reduces the growth of bacteria
– stay hydrated


What if my UTI comes back?

Some women and people assigned female at birth get UTIs more than once, even when they follow preventative guidelines. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options if you are prone to UTIs. Home tests for UTIs can help you catch the infection earlier, and your doctor might give you a supply of antibiotics to have on hand.

If you experience UTI symptoms such as blood in your urine, vomiting, and fever, please seek immediate care.