At-Home UTI Treatments Aren't All They're Cracked Up To Be

Anyone who has ever had a urinary tract infection, or UTI, knows how irritating and even painful they can be. UTIs are common and are caused by bacteria from the skin or rectum entering the urinary tract by way of the urethra (via CDC). The urethra is a tube that enables urination and in those born female, it's short. That results in the ability to easily bring bacteria, such as E. coli — a common culprit — back to the urinary tract. It's one reason why sexual activity can cause recurrent UTIs.

Symptoms of UTIs include burning when urinating, having to urinate more than usual, cramps, and blood in the urine. You may also feel as though you have to urinate, although your bladder is empty, simply because of inflammation. In extreme cases, you may have a fever, chills, and back pain.

Typically at the first twinge of discomfort, many reach for an at-home remedy, but they may not always be helpful.

Cranberry juice cannot kill an existing infection

For those who suffer from recurring UTIs, cranberry juice can be their to-go remedy of choice. Many people may feel uncomfortable or pain when using the bathroom and then reach for the cranberry juice, falsely believing that it can cure an infection.

"One of the most persistent myths about UTIs is that drinking cranberry juice can cure them," says Dr. David Shusterman, who is the founder of New York Urology (via Well + Good). "While cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs, it is not an effective treatment for an active infection. It just creates an environment where you drink more water, which causes you to urinate more frequently."

Relying on cranberry juice can actually harm you. If you have an active infection, you're gonna need a course of antibiotics to cure it. Untreated UTIs can lead to stronger, more resistant infections, which can travel to the bladder and kidneys.

What cranberry juice can do

While cranberry juice cannot cure a UTI, it can possibly help prevent a future one. The acid found in the juice helps create a hostile environment for any bacteria that may enter the urinary tract. Researchers have found that cranberries help prevent bacteria from easily being able to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract and cause infection, per Web MD.

There are other ways to try to ward off UTIs, such as making sure you are properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water, so that urine doesn't become too concentrated. Concentrated urine can gather bacteria, so make sure you empty your bladder regularly. You should also always empty your bladder after you have sex, to help get rid of any bacteria traveling to the urinary tract.

When you have any discomfort, it's best to see your doctor. Sexually transmitted infections can also mimic a UTI, according to the CDC, and only a urine test can accurately diagnose a UTI. A doctor can give you an antibiotic and treat the infection ASAP to avoid further infection and pain.