What antibiotics treat a UTI?

Reviewed by Theresa H. Care Delivery Manager & Family Nurse Practitioner

Time saver 3 min read

That urgent feeling that you need to go. The pain and burning sensation when you do. And that unsatisfying trickle of cloudy-colored urine. There’s no denying it. You know something isn’t right with your body and all of your symptoms point to a urinary tract infection (UTI). If you think you have a UTI – sometimes also called a bladder infection or cystitis – you need to treat and clear up the bacterial infection. But how? Despite all of the home remedies touted on the internet, you need to take antibiotics to treat a UTI 

That’s right. There’s a lot of misinformation circulating out there about at-home remedies for UTIs. But the truth is that taking fistfuls of probiotics and downing glass after glass of cranberry juice isn’t going to kill the bacteria that’s behind your infection. There’s no way around it – the only effective treatment for a UTI is antibiotics 

What are the main causes of UTIs?

It’s normal – and totally healthy – to have bacteria present in your urinary tract. But an infection can occur when the wrong type of bacteria is introduced into the urethra and bladder. This can happen when you have sex, wipe after going to the bathroom or even when your hormones shift – like during menopause. Bladder infections and UTIs are super common, and roughly 50% of women will get a UTI at some point during their lifetime.  

What types of bacteria cause UTIs? A whopping 90% of UTIs are caused by E. coli. Other bacterial strains like staphylococci and enterococcus are also sometimes behind UTIs. Regardless of the type of bacteria causing your UTI, an antibiotic can quickly clear up the infection and all those unpleasant symptoms.  

What antibiotics are prescribed for UTIs? 

Most UTIs are categorized as being uncomplicated in nature. This basically means that the infection is only in the bladder and there are no other worrisome symptoms – like a fever, chills or flank and back pain – that could indicate a more serious infection. In these cases, the antibiotics Macrobid (nitrofurantoin) or Keflex (cephalexin) are commonly prescribed.  


Macrobid (nitrofurantoin) is considered a first-line therapy for treating bladder infections. Macrobid works by stopping the bacteria that cause an infection from growing and reproducing.   


Keflex (cephalexin) is another antibiotic that’s commonly prescribed to treat UTIs. Keflex works by preventing bacteria from producing the protective coating they need to live and thrive.  

Macrobid (nitrofurantoin) Keflex (cephalexin)
Taken orally in pill form Taken orally in pill form
5-day course 7-day course
Take with food to avoid upset stomach Take with or without food
Side effects include nausea, headache & gas Side effects include diarrhea, yeast infection, nausea, vomiting & rash

Once you start on antibiotics, UTI symptoms should start to improve within a couple of days. But it’s really important that you continue to take all of your medication. Doing so helps ensure that the infection completely clears up and also helps protect against possible future antibiotic-resistant strains.   

Ways to feel better while treating a UTI 

When you have a UTI, it’s all you think about. Thankfully, once you get treatment, antibiotics work fairly quickly to clear up an infection and you should start to feel better within a couple of days. During that time, there are things you can do to reduce UTI symptoms and pain. 

UTI pain relief tips

  • Use over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and AZO® to reduce UTI pain 
  • Apply a warm pack on your abdomen to soothe discomfort 
  • Drink water – aim for 32 oz. per day – to flush out your urinary tract   
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol which can irritate your bladder 

Develop a yeast infection while taking antibiotics for a UTI? When you get treatment for a UTI through Virtuwell, we’ll treat your yeast infection online for free.

Get online treatment for UTIs

UTI-related pain and symptoms can be pretty intense. And when you’re in pain and feel like you have to constantly pee, the last thing you want to do is drive to a clinic and sit in a waiting room. Thankfully, you don’t have to. In most cases, you don’t need to go into a clinic to get UTI treatment. If you think you have a UTI, you can get a diagnosis, treatment plan and prescription online.  

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