To confirm that you have a kidney infection, you'll likely be asked to provide a urine sample to test for bacteria, blood or pus in your urine. Your doctor might also take a blood sample for a culture — a lab test that checks for bacteria or other organisms in your blood.
Other tests might include an ultrasound, CT scan or a type of X-ray called a voiding cystourethrogram. A voiding cystourethrogram involves injecting a contrast dye to take X-rays of the bladder when full and while urinating.
Antibiotics for kidney infections
Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for kidney infections. Which drugs you use and for how long depend on your health and the bacteria found in your urine tests.
Usually, the signs and symptoms of a kidney infection begin to clear up within a few days of treatment. But you might need to continue antibiotics for a week or longer. Take the entire course of antibiotics recommended by your doctor even after you feel better.
Your doctor might recommend a repeat urine culture to ensure the infection has cleared. If the infection is still present, you'll need to take another course of antibiotics.
Hospitalization for severe kidney infections
If your kidney infection is severe, your doctor might admit you to the hospital. Treatment might include antibiotics and fluids that you receive through a vein in your arm (intravenously). How long you'll stay in the hospital depends on the severity of your condition.
Treatment for recurrent kidney infections
An underlying medical problem such as a misshapen urinary tract can cause you to get repeated kidney infections. In that case, you might be referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) or urinary surgeon (urologist) for an evaluation. You might need surgery to repair a structural abnormality.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To reduce discomfort while you recover from a kidney infection, you might:
- Apply heat. Place a heating pad on your abdomen, back or side to ease pain.
- Use pain medicine. For fever or discomfort, take a nonaspirin pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, others).
- Stay hydrated. Drinking fluids will help flush bacteria from your urinary tract. Avoid coffee and alcohol until your infection has cleared. These products can worsen the feeling of needing to urinate.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll likely start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your doctor suspects your infection has spread to your kidneys, you might be referred to a doctor who treats conditions that affect the urinary tract (urologist).
What you can do
When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet for certain tests.
Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment, and when they began
- Key personal information, including recent life changes, such as a new sexual partner, and whether you've had previous urinary tract or kidney infections
- All medications, vitamins and other supplements you take, including doses
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.
For kidney infection, questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is the likely cause of my kidney infection?
- What tests do I need?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- What are the potential side effects of treatment?
- Will I need to be hospitalized?
- How can I prevent future kidney infections?
- I have other health conditions. How can I manage them together?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?