Treatment for Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

How do health care professionals treat kidney infections?

If you have a kidney infection, a health care professional will prescribe antibiotics. Even before your test results are in, the health care professional may prescribe an antibiotic that fights the most common types of bacteria. Although you may feel relief from your symptoms, make sure to take the entire antibiotic treatment that your health care professional prescribes.

Once your lab results are in, the health care professional may switch the antibiotic to one that better treats the type of infection you have. You may take these antibiotics by mouth, through a vein in your arm, called by IV, or both.

If you are very sick from your kidney infection, you may go to a hospital for bed rest. A health care professional may give you fluids through an IV.

If something such as a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate is blocking your urinary tract, a doctor can sometimes treat the problem with surgery or another procedure.

An older man in a hospital bed with his wife and doctor nearby.
If you think you have a kidney infection, see a health care professional right away.

How can I make sure my kidney infection is completely gone?

If you recently had a kidney infection, the health care professional will often repeat urine cultures after your treatment ends to make sure your infection has completely gone away and has not come back. If a repeat test shows infection, you may take another round of antibiotics. If your infection comes back again, he or she may prescribe antibiotics for a longer time period.

If your health care professional prescribes antibiotics, take all of the antibiotics as prescribed and follow the advice of the health care professional. Even if you start to feel better, you should finish all of your medicine.

How can I prevent a kidney infection?

Many kidney infections start as a bladder infection, so preventing bladder infections may help prevent kidney infections. Scientists are still trying to understand the best ways to prevent bladder infections, but these small changes in your daily habits may help:

Drink lots of liquid, especially water

Liquids can help flush bacteria from the urinary system. Water is best. Most healthy people should try to drink six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of liquid each day. If you need to drink less water because of other health conditions, such as bladder control problems, kidney failure or heart disease, ask your health care provider how much liquid is healthy for you.

Wipe from front to back after using the toilet

Women should wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from getting into the urethra. This step is most important after a bowel movement.

Urinate often and when the urge arises

Try to urinate at least every 3 to 4 hours. Bacteria are more likely to grow in the bladder when urine stays in the bladder too long.

Urinate after sex

Both women and men should urinate shortly after sex to flush away bacteria that may have entered the urethra during sex.

April 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Ann E. Stapleton, MD, FIDSA, FACP, University of Washington School of Medicine