Treatment - Kidney infection

A kidney infection can be treated at home with a course of antibiotics, and paracetamol if needed.

Medication

Antibiotics

If you're being treated at home, your GP will usually prescribe a course of antibiotics. You will need to take these for 7 to 14 days.

For most people, antibiotics called ciprofloxacin or co-amoxiclav are recommended. Other antibiotics, such as trimethoprim, may also be used.

Common side effects of ciprofloxacin include diarrhoea and feeling sick. Co-amoxiclav can make the contraceptive pill and contraceptive patch less effective. 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 if you are pregnant.

Usually, you'll start to feel better soon after treatment starts. You should feel completely better after about 2 weeks.

Talk to your GP if your symptoms show no sign of improvement 24 hours after treatment starts.

Painkillers

Paracetamol should help relieve symptoms of pain and a high temperature.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen aren't recommended for a kidney infection. They may increase the risk of further kidney problems. They shouldn't be taken unless advised by your GP.

Things you can try yourself

If you have a kidney infection, try not to 'hover' over the toilet seat when peeing. It can result in your bladder not being fully emptied.

It's also important for most people with a kidney infection to drink plenty of fluids. Water is best. This will help to flush out the bacteria from your kidneys. Aim to drink enough so that you're passing pale-coloured pee.

If you have kidney failure, get advice from your doctor on how much to drink.

Make sure you get plenty of rest. A kidney infection can be draining, even if you're healthy and strong. It may take up to 2 weeks before you're able to return to work.

Treatment at hospital

Your GP may refer you to hospital if you have an underlying problem that makes you vulnerable to kidney infections.

It's standard practice to further investigate all men with a kidney infection. This is because the condition is much rarer in men. GPs don't tend to refer women unless they've had 2 or more kidney infections.

Most children with a kidney infection will be treated in hospital.

You may need hospital treatment if:

  • you're severely dehydrated
  • you're unable to swallow or keep down any fluids or medications
  • you have more symptoms that suggest you may have blood poisoning. These symptoms could be 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 something 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. This could be a polycystic kidney disease or chronic kidney disease

If you're admitted to hospital with a kidney infection, you'll be attached to a drip. This is to give you fluids to keep you hydrated. Antibiotics can also be given through the drip.

You'll have regular blood and urine tests. This is to check your health and how the antibiotics are fighting off the infection.

Most people respond well to treatment. You should be well enough to leave hospital in 3 to 7 days.

Treatment will usually change to tablets or capsules after you stop receiving antibiotics through a drip.

You may need further investigations if you get more than one kidney infection. Your GP or hospital specialist will arrange these tests for you.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 24 March 2021
Next review due: 24 March 2024

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