Yes and no, ibuprofen (Advil) can help alleviate some symptoms and the pain and discomfort caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs) but it does not treat the underlying bacterial infection. The only way to effectively treat a UTI is with antibiotics.
- Ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is primarily used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and lower fever.
- Ibuprofen may help to treat UTI pain and discomfort.
- Ibuprofen can’t cure a UTI, the only way to effectively treat a UTI is with antibiotics.
- Ibuprofen should not be used as a substitute for antibiotics.
- There are also other over-the-counter medicines that may help relieve UTI symptoms.
- Proper diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare provider is necessary for UTI treatment.
Continue reading to learn more about how ibuprofen can help with UTIs and what other treatment options are available.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
- Does Ibuprofen Help With a UTI?
- Does Ibuprofen Treat UTI Symptoms?
- Does Ibuprofen Help With UTI Discomfort?
- What Other OTC Medication Can You Take To Help With UTI Pain and Discomfort?
- How to Treat a UTI?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs when bacteria enter the urinary system. The most common type of UTI is a bladder infection, which can cause symptoms such as pain or burning during urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and a strong urge to urinate. While UTIs are more common in women than men, anyone can get one.
There are a number of over-the-counter medications that can help to treat the symptoms of a UTI, but there is some confusion over using ibuprofen with some studies suggesting it is a good option for uncomplicated urinary tract infections, while others point out that masking the symptoms with ibuprofen without getting the necessary antibiotics can lead to delays in curing then infection and increase risk of more serious infection.
Does Ibuprofen Help With a UTI?
The question of whether taking OTC medicine like Advil (ibuprofen) can help with a UTI is a complicated one. Indeed, some peer-reviewed studies argue that it can be helpful because it can help manage symptoms while the infection resolves itself on its own.
However, other researchers concluded that Ibuprofen treatment leads to a longer duration of symptoms, a higher symptom burden, and an increased risk of complications including kidney infections.
Does Ibuprofen Treat UTI Symptoms?
The study completed by Vik et al (2018), and published in PLoS Medicine argues that Ibuprofen alone should not be used in the treatment of simple UTIs. This randomized Scandinavian study found that by the fourth day, the antibiotic option pivmecillinam outperformed ibuprofen by 35%.
Additionally, women in the ibuprofen group suffered symptoms of their UTI for twice as long as those in the pivmecillinam and demonstrated a higher symptom burden. It is also crucial to note that Vik et al (2018), found that 47% of women treated in the ibuprofen group needed at least one secondary antibiotic treatment, which was much higher than that of the antibiotic group.
Finally, seven women treated in the ibuprofen group developed a kidney infection and five of these had to be sent to the hospital for it, whereas none of the antibiotic group got a kidney infection, which demonstrates a particular risk of worsened consequences of ibuprofen treatment.
Does Ibuprofen Help With UTI Discomfort?
There is some evidence that ibuprofen can be used to treat UTI discomfort and symptomatic relief. For instance. Gágyor I, Bleidorn J, Kochen MM, et al. (2015) found that ibuprofen was effective for two-thirds of women when treating an uncomplicated UTI, as the condition is self-limiting.
Their clinical research, conducted in Germany compared a sample size of 241 patients given doses of 3x400mg of ibuprofen across three days, to a sample of 234 patients given 3g of fosfomycin.
They found that 2/3 of the women given ibuprofen recovered without the need for antibiotics. While the women who did require antibiotics after their initial treatment with ibuprofen only needed a total of 94 courses of antibiotic treatment, which was a marked reduction compared to offering antibiotic treatment to all.
This leads them to recommend ibuprofen as a treatment for uncomplicated UTIs with mild to moderate symptoms or to be used with a delayed prescription.
What Other OTC Medication Can You Take To Help With UTI Pain and Discomfort?
There are a few other over-the-counter (OTC) medications that have been studied for their ability to help with UTI pain and discomfort. These include:
- Acetaminophen: This study found that acetaminophen was an effective way to relieve painful symptoms of a UTI.
- Antihistamines: A study published in the journal “Pharmacotherapy” found that antihistamines may help to reduce UTI pain and discomfort.
- Probiotics: A systematic review of studies published in the “Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews” found that natural supplements like probiotics may help to prevent UTIs.
If you are considering taking any of these medications to relieve UTI pain, it is important to speak with your healthcare professionals first to ensure that they are safe for you to take.
How to Treat a UTI?
There are a few things that you can do to help treat a UTI. These include:
- Drink plenty of fluids: Drinking water helps to flush out the bacteria that are causing the infection. Up your water intake to a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day.
- Urinate frequently: This helps to flush out the bacteria from your body.
- Limit sexual activity, as this can further irritate the area.
- Avoid irritants: things like caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods can irritate your bladder and make UTI symptoms worse.
- Try a heating pad: Applying heat to the area can help to relieve pain and discomfort, and help you rest and sleep.
If you are suffering from severe UTI symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare professional. They will be able to prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.
When to See a Doctor?
If you suspect you may have a UTI or are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare provider:
- Burning sensation when you urinate
- Severe flank pain or abdominal pain
- Blood in the urine
- Difficulty urinating
- If you experience a frequent urge to urinate
If you are unsure whether or not your symptoms are caused by a UTI, it is always better to err on the side of caution and see a healthcare professional. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate UTI treatment
How Can DrHouse Help You?
If you are suffering from a UTI, the DrHouse app can help you get the treatment you need. With our telehealth app, you can:
- Get a consultation with a healthcare professional: You can speak with one of our board-certified physicians who can help diagnose your condition and recommend treatment options for your UTI.
- Get a prescription for antibiotics: If your UTI is caused by bacteria, our physicians can prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.
With DrHouse, you can see an online doctor 24-7 whenever you need it. We can help you get the treatment you need to feel better fast.
- Ibuprofen may help to treat UTI pain, but preventing complications shouldn’t be regarded as a treatment on its own.
- Other OTC medications that have been studied for their ability to help with UTI pain and discomfort include acetaminophen, antihistamines, and probiotics.
- If you are experiencing UTI symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare provider. They will be able to prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.
- Symptoms of a UTI that warrant seeing a healthcare provider include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and severe pain in the abdomen or back.
- Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
- Schwenger EM, Tejani AM, Loewen PS. Probiotics for preventing urinary tract infections in adults and children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD008772. DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD008772.pub2.
- Akhter T, Baqai R, Aziz M. Antibacterial effect of NSAIDS on clinical isolates of urinary tract infection and diabetic foot infection. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2010 Jan;23(1):108-13. PMID: 20067876.
- Ferguson J, MacDonald KJ, Kenicer KJ. Terfenadine and placebo compared in the treatment of chronic idiopathic urticaria: a randomised double-blind study. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1985 Dec;20(6):639-41. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.1985.tb05122.x.
- GÃ¡gyor I, Bleidorn J, Kochen M M, Schmiemann G, Wegscheider K, Hummers-Pradier E et al. Ibuprofen versus fosfomycin for uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women: randomised controlled trial BMJ 2015; 351 :h6544 doi:https://www.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6544
- Vik I, Bollestad M, Grude N, Bærheim A, Damsgaard E, Neumark T, Bjerrum L, Cordoba G, Olsen IC, Lindbæk M. Ibuprofen versus pivmecillinam for uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women-A double-blind, randomized non-inferiority trial. PLoS Med. 2018 May 15;15(5):e1002569. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002569.