Should I Go to the ER for a UTI?

UTIs can cause severe pain, discomfort, and other symptoms that can prevent individuals from performing their daily tasks. Therefore, it is essential to know when you should seek medical care for a UTI and where to go. Thus people often wonder if and when they should go to the Emergency Room (ER) for a UTI.

You can go to the ER for a UTI, especially if experiencing severe symptoms like intense pain, lethargy, chills, nausea, fever, or vomiting which all can indicate a kidney infection or a more severe complication.

However, ER visits should be reserved for more severe cases. For milder UTIs, other options include consulting your primary care physician, urgent care centers, seeing a urologist, or utilizing telehealth services for quicker access to treatment.

Key takeaways:

  • If you have a UTI it is essential to seek medical care to prevent complications and alleviate symptoms.
  • You can visit the ER for a UTI.
  • You should go to the ER if you are experiencing severe symptoms such as intense pain, lethargy, chills, nausea, fever, or vomiting all of which may indicate a kidney infection or other complications.
  • People with underlying health conditions, weakened immune systems, or a history of recurrent UTIs may also need to seek care more urgently.
  • Other options for seeking medical care include consulting your primary care physician, urgent care centers, seeing a urologist, or using a telehealth service.

Continue reading to learn more about when you should go to the ER for a UTI.

Table of Contents

Can You Go to the ER for a UTI?

Urinary Tract Infections are common conditions that can affect parts of the urinary system, such as the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Although UTIs might have different causes, they are mostly triggered by a bacterial infection caused by the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. Some other reasons why you might develop a UTI include viruses and fungi. 

Although UTIs are more common in women – and even more among aging women – they can affect anyone. 

The most common symptoms of UTIs include pain in the pelvic area, discomfort or a burning sensation while urinating, frequent urination, and blood in the urine. If the upper urinary tract is affected (kidneys or bladder), you might also experience fever, pain on the side of your torso, and nausea. 

According to 2021 studies, UTIs account for over 2% of visits to the emergency room or emergency department each year. And, if you have been struggling with the excruciating pain that UTI can cause, it is only understandable to consider your local ER as the first point of call. 

But while you can go to the emergency department for UTI symptoms, there is a little more that you should keep in mind. 

When Should You Go to the ER for a UTI?

Although you can go to the Emergency Department for a UTI, it is important to understand when it is necessary to do so. Having a clear idea of when you need emergency medical services can help you avoid unnecessary fees and reduce the burden on the ER departments. 

So, when should you go to the ER for a UTI?

Although this might vary, you should go to the ER for UTI symptoms if:

  • Pain and discomfort are progressing despite treatment
  • You are now experiencing lethargy 
  • You have chills, nausea, and a fever
  • You have severe and sudden shaking
  • You are vomiting you can’t keep down medications and clear fluids

If you are not experiencing these symptoms, or your UTI is mild, you should still seek treatment straight away. However, there are other options worth considering. Learn when to see a doctor for a UTI below. 

Where Should You Go for a UTI?

Some UTIs will go away without treatment in as little as 7 days. Nonetheless, if you have a UTI that won’t go away or your symptoms are getting worse, you should not think twice about seeing a healthcare professional. And, this is especially important if you suffer from this disease chronically or if you are an at-risk patient. 

Here are your best options when seeking treatment for UTI. 

Primary Care Physician

When it comes down to getting rid of a UTI, your primary care physician should be your first port of call. 

Indeed, with proper treatment, UTI symptoms can go away in as little as 24-48 hours. However, if you have a kidney infection or other underlying conditions, a UTI can cause severe consequences. Your primary care physician will be aware of your medical history and current health status and will be able to offer a customized treatment plan (i.e.: choosing the antibiotic that will work best). 

Urgent Care

Although your primary care physician should be your first port of call, you should learn when it’s appropriate to go to your local urgent care center for a UTI. This is especially important if you are experiencing severe symptoms or don’t have access to primary care services. 

Generally, urgent care should be your choice if your symptoms are severe but the illness or injury isn’t life-threatening. Most severe UTIs will fall within this category. 

Going to an urgent care center instead of an ER also has other benefits. Firstly, urgent care clinics have shorter waiting lines than ER, and you’ll be able to get treated as soon as possible. What’s more, urgent care visits are cheaper than ED services. In the case of UTIs, the average cost of going to ER is $665, while urgent care will cost you as little as $112. 

Urologist

One of the most efficient ways to treat UTIs is via antibiotics. However, this family of medications can have significant side effects and need to be administered under close clinical supervision. 

Today, you can get antibiotics for UTIs without seeing a doctor via telehealth services or through your pharmacist.  

However, if you have some underlying conditions that require specialized care, you should not think twice about visiting a specialized urologist. While most antibiotics for UTIs are readily available, don’t forget that nearly 50% of women are given the wrong medication for their UTIs!

Virtual Urgent Care

Another great option to access immediate and affordable urgent care for your UTI is via virtual urgent care. These telehealth platforms allow you to consult a specialist and obtain the necessary prescriptions needed to treat your UTI. 

What Can You Do at Home to Treat Your UTI?

Although the best way to treat most UTIs is through antibiotics, there is a lot that you can do to ease the symptoms of urinary tract infections while waiting for your treatment to start showing results. 

Some at-home ways to reduce the pain of UTI include:

  • Wearing comfortable or loose clothes
  • Increasing your water intake
  • Apply warm compresses or a hot water bottle
  • Take cranberry supplements (but not juice)
  • Avoid bladder irritants

Although OTC medications might help, it is important not to make up a DIY pharmaceutical treatment. Indeed, according to studies, ibuprofen isn’t effective in treating the underlying causes of UTIs and might lead to complications if the infection isn’t properly addressed. 

Another way to find treatment for UTI without seeing a doctor is to use virtual health services to obtain UTI treatment and antibiotics. 

How Can DrHouse Help You?

With the DrHouse telehealth platform, you can start on-demand online doctor visits from the comfort of your home. Our certified clinicians are experienced in treating a broad range of ailments, including UTIs.

Our clinicians can diagnose your UTI and provide the necessary medication and treatment plans to help you get rid of it.

So don’t wait any longer — take control of your health with DrHouse!

In Conclusion

UTIs are incredibly common and can have a profound impact on your daily life. However, ER visits for UTIs are only necessary if your symptoms are life-threatening. Better options to treat urinary tract infections include visiting a urologist, primary care physician, or online urgent care center. 

Sources: 

  • Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html 
  • Vik I, Bollestad M, Grude N, Bærheim A, Damsgaard E, et al. (2018) Ibuprofen versus pivmecillinam for uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women—A double-blind, randomized non-inferiority trial. PLOS Medicine 15(5): e1002569. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002569
  • Jepson RG, Mihaljevic L, Craig J. Cranberries for treating urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;1998(2):CD001322. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001322. PMID: 10796775; PMCID: PMC7025796.
  • Clark, A., Durkin, M., Olsen, M., Keller, M., Ma, Y., O’Neil, C., & Butler, A. (2021). Rural–urban differences in antibiotic prescribing for uncomplicated urinary tract infection. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 42(12), 1437-1444. Doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1017/ice.2021.21 
  • Urinary tract infection – adults. MedlinePlus. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000521.htm# 
  • Poh, XE., Wu, KH., Chen, CC. et al. Outcomes for Patients with Urinary Tract Infection After an Initial Intravenous Antibiotics Dose Before Emergency Department Discharge. Infect Dis Ther 10, 1479–1489 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40121-021-00469-9 
  • Al-Badr A, Al-Shaikh G. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women: A review. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2013 Aug;13(3):359-67. doi: 10.12816/0003256. Epub 2013 Jun 25. PMID: 23984019; PMCID: PMC3749018.

Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

DrHouse

Healthcare

on your schedule

Skip the unnecessary waiting room,
see a board-certified clinician now.

Start an Online Visit
Available in 50 states. No insurance needed.

Prescriptions as needed
Renew or get a new Rx.

On-demand virtual visits
See a clinician in 15 minutes.

24/7 care support
We are here to help you.

DrHouse
  • 1

    Download the DrHouse app.
    Set up your free account in a minute.

  • 2

    Start a visit with an online doctor. Wait time is less than 15 minutes.

  • 3

    Get an Rx from your preferred pharmacy. Pick up a Rx nearby or get it delivered to you.

Download our app