Most people with a kidney infection can be treated at home with a course of antibiotics, and possibly painkillers as well.
See your GP if you have a fever and persistent tummy, lower back or genital pain, or if you notice a change to your usual pattern of urination.
All children with symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney infection, including cystitis, should see their GP or out-of-hours emergency service.
If you're being treated at home, you'll usually be prescribed a course of antibiotic tablets or capsules that lasts between seven and 14 days.
For most people – apart from pregnant women – antibiotics called ciprofloxacin or Co-amoxiclav are recommended. However, other antibiotics may also be used.
Common side effects of ciprofloxacin include feeling sick and diarrhoea.
Co-amoxiclav can make the contraceptive pill and contraceptive patches less effective, so you may need to use another form of contraception during the course of treatment.
A 14-day course of an antibiotic called cefalexin is recommended for pregnant women.
Usually, you'll start to feel better quite soon after treatment starts and you should feel completely better after about two weeks.
If your symptoms show no sign of improvement 24 hours after treatment starts, contact your GP for advice.
Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol should help relieve symptoms of pain and a high temperature.
However, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen aren't usually recommended to relieve pain during a kidney infection. This is because they may increase the risk of further kidney problems.
If you have a kidney infection, try not to "hover" over the toilet seat when you go to the loo, because it can result in your bladder not being fully emptied.
It's also important to drink plenty of fluids, because this will help prevent dehydration and will help to flush out the bacteria from your kidneys. Aim to drink enough so that you're frequently passing pale-coloured urine.
Make sure that you get plenty of rest. A kidney infection can be physically draining, even if you're normally healthy and strong. It may take up to two weeks before you're fit enough to return to work.
Treatment at hospital
Your GP may refer you to hospital if you have an underlying problem with your urinary tract, which makes you vulnerable to kidney infections.
It's standard practice to further investigate all men with a kidney infection simply because the condition is much rarer in men. Only women who have had two or more kidney infections tend to be referred. Most children with a kidney infection will be treated in hospital.
Hospital treatment may also be needed if:
- you're severely dehydrated
- you're unable to swallow or keep down any fluids or medications
- you have additional symptoms that suggest you may have blood poisoning, such as a rapid heartbeat and losing consciousness
- you're pregnant and you also have a high temperature
- you're particularly frail and your general health is poor
- your symptoms fail to improve within 24 hours of starting treatment with antibiotics
- you have a weakened immune system
- you have a foreign body inside your urinary tract, such as a kidney stone or a urinary catheter
- you have diabetes
- you're over the age of 65
- you have an underlying condition that affects the way your kidneys work, such as polycystic kidney disease or chronic kidney disease
If you're admitted to hospital with a kidney infection, you'll probably be attached to a drip so you can be given fluids to help keep you hydrated. Antibiotics can also be given through the drip.
You'll have regular blood and urine tests to monitor your health and how effectively the antibiotics are fighting off the infection.
Most people respond well to treatment. As long as there are no complications, they're usually well enough to leave hospital within three to seven days. Treatment will usually switch to tablets or capsules after you stop receiving antibiotics through a drip.