The main aims of treatment are to relieve your symptoms, treat the infection and prevent the infection spreading to your kidneys.
UTIs are treated with antibiotics, the common ones being nitrofurantoin, cefalexin and trimethoprim. Usually, a 3–5 day course of antibiotics is needed to treat the infection and to reduce the risk of it spreading to your kidneys and causing pyelonephritis. Your symptoms should begin to improve within the first 2 days of taking antibiotics.
If your doctor advises you to take antibiotics, it's important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better before the course is finished. If your symptoms continue for more than 2 days after starting treatment, or if you get worse, see your doctor as soon as possible.
If you have recurrent UTIs (you keep getting them), or are at higher risk of complications, your doctor may give you a low dose antibiotic to take for a few months. How long you need to take the antibiotic depends on how often you are having UTIs.
Can I get antibiotics for a UTI from my pharmacy without a prescription?
Many pharmacists are now able to sell antibiotics for the treatment of UTIs in women. Macrobid (nitrofurantoin capsules) and trimethoprim tablets are available without a prescription for woman aged 16 to 65 years, who are not pregnant and don't have any other complicating factors. Only pharmacists who have completed additional training can supply these medicines. Read more about Macrobid (nitrofurantoin capsules) and trimethoprim.
Pain relief only is not recommended
Allowing your immune system to fight the infection (by only taking pain relief and not using antibiotics) is not recommended. Antibiotics can reduce how long you have symptoms on average by around 2 days and reduce the risk of complications like pyelonephritis.