To check for a kidney infection, you may be asked to provide a urine sample to test for bacteria, blood or pus in your urine. Your health care provider might also take a blood sample for a culture. A culture is a lab test that checks for bacteria or other organisms in your blood.
Other tests might include an ultrasound, a 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. The drugs used and the length of time of the treatment depend on your health and the bacteria found in your urine tests.
Symptoms of a kidney infection often begin to clear up within a few days of treatment. But you might need to continue antibiotics for a week or longer. Finish taking the full course of antibiotics even if you start feeling better.
Your provider might want you to have a repeat urine culture test to make sure that 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, you may need to go to the hospital. Treatment might include antibiotics and fluids through a vein in your arm. How long you'll stay in the hospital depends on how severe your infection is.
Treatment for recurrent kidney infections
An underlying medical problem such as a misshapen urinary tract can cause you to have repeated kidney infections. In that case, you might be referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) or urinary surgeon (urologist). You might need surgery to repair a structural problem.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To help you feel better while you recover from a kidney infection, you might:
- Apply heat. Place a heating pad on your belly, back or side to ease pain.
- Use pain medicine. For fever or discomfort, take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). If you have chronic kidney disease, it's best to avoid or limit use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as 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. They can worsen the feeling of needing to urinate.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll likely start by seeing your family provider or a general practitioner. If your health care provider suspects that an infection has spread to your kidneys, you might need to see a specialist 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.
Take note of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to your condition. Also note when they began.
- Key personal information, including recent life changes, such as a new sex partner, and past medical history.
- All medicines, vitamins and other supplements you take, including doses.
- Questions to ask your provider.
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember everything you talk about with your provider.
For kidney infection, questions to ask your health care provider include:
- What is the likely cause of my kidney infection?
- What tests do I need?
- What treatment do you think I need?
- Will there be side effects from treatment?
- Do I need to go to a hospital for treatment?
- 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 suggest?
Be sure to ask any other questions that occur to you during your time with your provider.
What to expect from your doctor
Your health care provider is likely to ask you questions, such as:
- Have your symptoms been ongoing or on-and-off?
- How bad are your symptoms?
- Does anything seem to make you feel better?
- What things seem to make your symptoms worse?