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Doctors Share the Tricks That Help Get Rid of a UTI Fast + Block It From Coming Back

Turns out digging into tasty garlic bread can speed healing

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the bladder, urethra or kidneys. This can cause uncomfortable below-the-belt symptoms like pelvic pain, frequent urination and a burning sensation while urinating. If you’ve ever dealt with this bothersome infection, you’ve likely wondered how to get rid of a UTI in 24 hours.

Unfortunately, UTIs are incredibly common. More than 8 million people in the US are treated for a UTI each year, and around half of all women will experience at least one UTI in their life. In fact, women are a whopping 30 times more likely than men to get a UTI, and the risk increases as we age. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to get fast relief and help prevent a recurrence.

UTI risk rises after menopause

“The most important risk factor for developing UTIs is being a woman,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB/GYN and clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine.

The majority of UTIs are caused by E. coli and other types of bacteria that live in the intestines. The urethra, vagina and rectum are all in close proximity, which makes it easy for bacteria to travel between them — especially during intercourse. And once those bacteria reach the opening of the urethra, they can move quickly to the bladder and cause an infection. “We have very short urethras [compared to men], so the bacteria can just scoot into our bladders,” Dr. Minkin says.

An illustration of a bladder with bacteria, which can cause a UTI that's hard to get rid of in 24 hours

The risk increases even more after menopause. “Low estrogen levels in menopause can lead to the thinning of the vaginal tissues surrounding the bladder and urethra, making the area more susceptible to urinary tract infections,” says Fareesa Khan, MD, a urogynecologist at Rush University System for Health in Chicago.

Estrogen helps your body maintain a healthy microbiome in the vagina and bladder. But when estrogen levels drop, it throws off the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. Lower estrogen levels can also cause dryness and irritation in the vagina and weaken the muscles of the urethra, making it easier for bacteria to move through it. 

Other common risk factors for UTIs include spermicides, frequent antibiotic use and genetic risks, adds Sherry Ross, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Related: Doctors Break the Silence on the Bladder Problem That Feels Like a UTI That Never Goes Away — and Favors Women Over 50

Suspect a UTI? Try a home test kit

If you’re having UTI symptoms and want start getting rid of them within 24 hours, a proper diagnosed is the first step towards feeling better.

“Using a reliable UTI home testing kit can be helpful in giving information if you suspect a UTI,” Dr. Ross says. “Seeing a healthcare provider can be challenging and inconvenient, so home testing can give more information about a potential UTI diagnosis.”

UTI testing kits area readily available over the counter at most drugstores and through Amazon. You’ll either hold a test strip in your urine stream, or you’ll pee into a collection cup and dip the test strip in it. The strips test for nitrites and leukocytes that are usually produced by a UTI.

Urine test kit strips, which are used to diagnose a UTI
A home test kit strip can help clue you into a UTIKulikova Anna/Getty

If the test turns up positive, call your doctor. “It’s always recommended to see a healthcare provider to confirm the diagnosis and get the proper antibiotic treatment,” Dr. Ross says. Left untreated, a UTI can lead to a more serious kidney infection, kidney damage or even sepsis. 

Related: Doctors Say if You See This in Your Urine, It Could Be an Early Warning Sign of a UTI

How to get rid of a UTI in 24 hours

First, the bad news: There’s no secret hack that will completely get rid of a UTI in 24 hours. While a mild UTI may resolve on its own or respond to home remedies, you may need antibiotics to fully clear it up, especially if you’re hoping for fast relief. So if you suspect you have a UTI, let your doctor know.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to speed healing and help start to get rid of UTI symptoms in 24 hours or so.

1. Drink up

“The first step when you think you have a urinary tract infection is hydration,” Dr. Khan says. “It is possible to dilute the urine and even ‘wash away’ a urinary tract infection before it requires antibiotics.”

Water can also reduce your risk of getting a UTI in the first place. A study in the Journal of Family Practice found that premenopausal women who increased their daily water intake to 1.5 liters (around 6 cups) a day had a significantly lower recurrence of UTIs compared to those who were less hydrated.

2. Go for garlic bread

“Garlic has been used in medicinal purposes for centuries,” Dr. Ross says. “It’s thought to have an antibacterial effect that may treat UTIs.” Garlic contains potent antimicrobial compounds, and a review in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that it may even be effective in managing antibiotic-resistant infections. Add one or two fresh cloves of garlic to your daily diet. (Worried about a funky odor from upping your garlic intake? See the simple tips that get rid of garlic breath.)

A dish of garlic bread, which can help get rid of a UTI in 24 hours, beside fresh garlic, olives and cherry tomatoes

Also smart: Dr. Ross recommends avoiding coffee, alcohol and spicy foods while you’re recovering from a UTI. These foods can irritate the bladder lining, making your UTI symptoms even more uncomfortable.

3. Hug a hot water bottle

While you wait for antibiotics to do their thing, a heating pad or hot water applied to your lower abdomen can provide some relief from pelvic pain. “The heat from a hot water bottle helps soothe and relax painful areas by increasing blood flow to the affected area,” Dr. Ross says. Apply heat for up to 20 minutes at a time, three times a day, to start getting rid of UTI pain within 24 hours.

4. Try an OTC fix

Dr. Minkin recommends looking for drugstore remedies containing phenazopyridine, which can help relieve UTI pain, burning and irritation. The medication is typically taken three times a day until symptoms subside. The dosage instructions may caution against taking it for more than two days in a row, primarily because its pain-relieving effects can mask a more serious issue.

“If you’re still having pain, you need to find out what’s causing the pain,” Dr. Minkin says. Just be aware that phenazopyridine may temporarily turn your urine (and even your tears) a reddish-orange color.

How to prevent another UTI

Once you get rid of a UTI, you’ll want to keep it from happening again. Here are a few simple habits that can help.

1. Sip unsweetened cranberry juice

Cranberry juice is often recommended as a home remedy for UTIs. But this beverage is much more effective as a first line of defense than as a way to get rid of a UTI in 24 hours. “Don’t count on cranberry juice to treat a UTI, but cranberry juice can be helpful in preventing UTIs by making the urine more acidic and preventing harmful bacterial from sticking to the walls of the bladder,” Dr. Ross explains.

A review in Clinics suggests that drinking around 8 to 10 oz. of cranberry juice cocktail each day can prevent up to 50% of recurring UTIs. Just be sure to opt for unsweetened cranberry juice — added sugar may worsen your UTI, Dr. Khan says.

Two glasses of cranberry juice on a table beside a bowl of fresh cranberries
Dmitrii Ivanov/Getty

2. Crunch on bell peppers

“Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which suggests it may be protective against bacteria building up in your bladder and increasing your risk of a UTI,” Dr. Ross says. “Vitamin C should not be used to treat a UTI, since it will not be effective at killing the bacteria responsible for the infection.” Some of the best sources of vitamin C include red bell peppers, oranges, kiwis, broccoli and strawberries. (Learn how to cut bell peppers to maximize their shelf life.)

3. Try D-mannose

A study in found that this simple sugar may be as effective as antibiotics in treating mild urinary tract infections. “D-mannose helps prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall,” Dr. Ross says, which helps curb your UTI risk. The recommended dose of D-mannose is 1000 mg, twice a day. Just be aware that the supplement is meant as a preventative measure, not a treatment, Dr. Ross adds. (Discover more UTI prevention supplements.)

4. Don’t ‘hold it’

Holding it in for too long can give bacteria time to multiply. “A general rule of thumb is to urinate every 2 to 3 hours, or when you first feel the urge,” Dr. Ross says. Also important: Urinating after intercourse. “Peeing after sex helps remove any bacteria that might have made their way into the urethra and bladder,” Dr. Ross adds.

For more ways to ease common bladder bothers:

Doctors Say if You See This in Your Urine, It Could Be an Early Warning Sign of a UTI

Pelvic Pain and Bladder Leaks Can Signal a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor — And Kegels Can Make Things Worse

Always ‘Gotta Go’? This Genius Shoe Trick Calms Bladder Spasms + More MD-Backed Tips

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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