Is a kidney infection cause for concern?
A kidney infection is a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment. These infections often start as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a bladder infection which then spreads to affect one or both kidneys.
Symptoms may include:
- back or side pain
- groin pain
- abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting
- frequent urination
- urine that’s cloudy, smells bad, or contains blood
You may be able to use home remedies together with your prescribed medical treatment to ease some symptoms and improve kidney health, but you shouldn’t try to treat yourself alone. You should always go to a doctor first, for diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
When to seek immediate medical attention
UTIs are uncomfortable, but they’re not an immediate medical emergency. Some people make the mistake of assuming the same is true with a kidney infection.
Kidney infections are serious conditions and they do require medical attention. Untreated, a kidney infection (sometimes called pyelonephritis) can quickly cause long-term kidney damage or kidney scarring. These infections can also cause sepsis, which can lead to shock.
Because of this, a kidney infection can be fatal if allowed to progress. Don’t take any chances by not having it treated by a medical professional.
Antibiotics are always the first line of defense against a kidney infection. If the kidney infection isn’t severe, your doctor will likely give you oral antibiotics to take once or twice a day for 10 to 14 days. You must take the entire course of antibiotics, even if you feel better within several days. Your doctor will encourage you to drink plenty of water.
Severe kidney infections may require admission to the hospital. You’ll be given fluids and antibiotics intravenously through an IV, both of which can help treat the infection.
If you have recurring UTIs that put you at increased risk of frequent kidney infections, your doctor will help you establish the cause of their frequency and help you prevent further infections from occurring.
There are also other medications available for treatment that are not antibiotic based.
Some people prefer to treat medical conditions with home remedies or alternative remedies.
Because of how serious kidney infections are, it’s important that you don’t rely on home remedies. Instead, you should take the prescription antibiotics your doctor gives you and use home remedies to help ease symptoms or pain. You can also use home remedies to avoid UTIs and improve kidney function.
1. Drink lots of water
Drinking plenty of water can help flush bacteria from the body, helping the infection to be eliminated faster. It can also help clear out the entire urinary system.
Drinking plenty of water can also help to prevent UTIs that can lead to kidney infections, so it’s a good practice to keep. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of fluids daily.
2. Drink cranberry juice
Cranberry juice has long been used as a remedy for UTIs and bladder infections. There’s some evidence that drinking cranberry juice may help or prevent UTIs in some people.
Many people prefer the sweet flavor of cranberry juice to water, helping them to drink more. However, cranberry juices full of added sweeteners aren’t great for you. A cranberry supplement or pure cranberry juice is a healthier way to get the benefits of cranberries.
3. Avoid alcohol and coffee
The kidneys’ most important role is to filter out harmful substances and toxins, and both alcohol and caffeine can require extra work from the kidneys. This may hinder the process of healing from an infection. Alcohol and antibiotics also shouldn’t be mixed, so avoid alcohol during your treatment for this reason as well.
4. Take probiotics
Probiotics have two big benefits when it comes to treating kidney infections. The first is that they’ll help keep your body’s healthy bacteria in check, even though the antibiotics may get rid of both “good” and “bad” bacteria.
There’s also evidence that probiotics can assist the kidneys in processing waste materials, and the better your kidneys are functioning, the more effective treatment will be.
5. Get some vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect tissues in the body from oxidative stress, which can automatically help promote kidney health. There’s also older that shows that vitamin C can prevent kidney scarring during acute kidney infection and boost the enzymes within the kidneys. You can take vitamin C supplements or foods dense in the nutrient.
6. Try parsley juice
Parsley juice is a nutrient-dense diuretic that can increase the frequency and amount of urination. This can help flush out the bacteria in the kidneys faster, making antibiotics even more effective. If you don’t like the taste of parsley outright, you can mix it into a smoothie with strong-flavored fruits, including cranberries or blueberries for best results.
7. Consume apples and apple juice
Apples are also nutrient-dense. Their high acid content may help the kidneys to maintain acidity in the urine, possibly inhibiting further growth of bacteria. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial in helping the kidneys to heal following the infection.
8. Take an Epsom salt bath
Both Epsom salts and warm water can ease pain. This can help to make the uncomfortable side effects of the kidney infection a little more tolerable while you wait for the antibiotics to take effect.
Since abdominal pain is sometimes a symptom of antibiotics, as well as kidney infections, this could also help even after symptoms from the kidney infection are resolved. Read about how to make an Epsom salt detox bath, as well as potential side effects to keep in mind.
9. Use non-aspirin pain relievers
Non-aspirin pain relievers can help to relieve discomfort. Ibuprofen, including Motrin and Advil, as well as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help break fevers caused by the infection.
10. Apply heat
While you wait for the antibiotics to kick in, you can use heat therapy to reduce pain. Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the affected area, and keep it on for about 20 minutes at a time.
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