When a UTI hits, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tempting to race to the doctor for a prescription, stat. But if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re concerned about taking antibiotics for every little thing, listen up: When women chose to delay antibiotics for symptoms of a UTI, 71 percent of them were cured or showed improvement in a week, according to a new study published in the journal BMC Family Practice.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam recruited patients from general practitioners in the area from April 2006 to October 2008. They looked at healthy, non-pregnant women who reported painful and/or frequent urination to their doctors. After the doctors did a routine urinalysis and culture (used to confirm a UTI diagnosis), they asked 137 of the patients if they were willing to delay antibiotic treatmentÃ¢â‚¬”and more than a third of women said yes. Of those women, 55 percent still hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t taken antibiotics at the one-week follow-up, and 71 percent of them reported an improvement or total recovery.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an innocent condition with a very low chance of complications,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Bart Knottnerus, MD, researcher at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always good to discuss this option with patients, even though a lot of them arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t willing to delay treatment.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Of course, this study only looked at women presenting with the symptoms of an uncomplicated urinary tract infectionÃ¢â‚¬”a routine bladder infection that had not progressed to the kidneys and was not accompanied by flank pain (pain on one side of the abdomen/back), fever, chills, or other symptoms. When these types of complications arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t present, many people do improve on their own, says Alyssa Dweck, MD, co-author of V is For Vagina. And since you typically have to wait a few days for the culture to determine if you really have a UTI, taking the meds upfront may mean unnecessary antibiotics if your results come back negative.
So should you skip the meds the next time youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re plagued with painful or frequent urination? Ã¢â‚¬Å“My preference is to try to at least culture everyone with symptoms and hold on treatment unless the culture is positive or symptoms worsen while waiting,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck. If you prefer to avoid antibiotics and wait it out, she suggests amping up your fluid intake and consuming plenty of cranberry juice or cranberry pills, as well as checking back in with your doctor if symptoms get worse. But here are the big exceptions: If you are pregnant or have a fever, chills, blood in your urine, flank pain, worsening symptoms, or a compromised immune system, donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t skip the antibiotics, says Dweck.
Make sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re also doing what you can to prevent UTIs from popping up in the first placeÃ¢â‚¬”like not holding it in (even if your only option is a porta-potty) and always going to the bathroom before and after sex, says Dweck.
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