Kidney infections result from excess bacteria that have built up in the kidney. Doctors also call them pyelonephritis. Kidney infections can require hospitalization to treat severe symptoms, and so home remedies alone usually are not enough to treat them.
Kidney infections are often the most serious of urinary tract infections (UTIs) because they have the most potential to damage the kidneys and spread to other body areas. Other UTIs may affect the bladder, ureters, or urethra, but are less likely to cause as significant damage.
If a person suspects they have a kidney infection, they should see their doctor straight away.
Home remedies alone as a treatment for kidney infections are not a good idea.
Kidney infections can cause severe symptoms and lead to kidney damage, and so a person will need antibiotics to treat the infection.
However, a person can use home remedies to support their recovery further and reduce the likelihood that the kidney infection will come back.
Before taking any supplements as a home remedy, a person should check with their doctor to make sure they do not interfere with any other medications they are taking.
The following are some home remedies and self-care tips that may help reduce kidney infection symptoms:
Drink plenty of water
Flushing bacteria from the kidneys is an important goal when a person has a kidney infection. Drinking at least six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day can help, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
If a person has kidney failure, they may need to decrease this amount of fluid based on their doctor's recommendations.
Drink cranberry juice
The idea of drinking cranberry juice to boost kidney health is controversial among some experts. However, some studies support the idea that cranberry juice may help to reduce the number of bacteria when a person has a UTI.
A 2018 study in mice in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology found that mice with UTIs that drank cranberry juice had reduced bacterial counts in their urinary tract.
The researchers theorized that acids present in cranberry juice, such as malic, citric, and quinic acid, had a protective effect in the urinary tract.
While this remedy may seem basic, it does have benefits. Getting plenty of rest allows the body to heal after a kidney infection.
Use warm, moist heat
Applying a heating pad or a warm water bottle to areas of flank pain can help to soothe irritated nerves and reduce pain.
A person should always cover the heated object with a cloth to reduce the risks for burns. They should also only apply heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
Heating pads are available to purchase in stores and online.
Take green tea extract or drink green tea
The researchers took green tea extracts and applied them to bacterial cultures in a laboratory. Over time, they found the green tea inhibited bacterial growth.
Because the study was in a laboratory and involved samples, it is hard to know if the results would be the same in humans. However, the possibility remains that green tea could have potential health benefits when a person has a UTI.
Green tea extract is available to purchase in stores and online.
Use over-the-counter pain relievers, but avoid aspirin
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can reduce fever and discomfort caused by a kidney infection.
It is best to avoid aspirin as it is a blood thinner and may cause elevated levels of blood in a person's urine.
If a person is unsure whether or not they can take a specific OTC pain reliever, they should speak to their doctor.
Home remedies alone will not cure a kidney infection.
A person should seek medical treatment for an antibiotics prescription if they think they have a kidney infection.
Doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat a kidney infection. If a person is having severe symptoms, they may require admission to the hospital to receive intravenous antibiotics.
A person should always finish taking their course of antibiotics, even if they are feeling better. This can prevent the infection from coming back.
If a person has recurrent kidney infections, they may require further examination by a doctor to identify a potential cause.
For example, some males may have an enlarged prostate that could block the urinary tract and make it easier for bacteria to build up. Others may have a kidney stone that is blocking the flow of urine.
Doctors may prescribe medications or recommend surgical procedures to address any underlying condition contributing to recurrent kidney infections.
A person should seek immediate medical attention if they have the following symptoms related to a potential kidney infection:
- a fever higher than 103°F
- presence of blood or pus, a thick liquid that is white or yellow, in the urine
- vomiting so severe they cannot keep fluids down
If a person has a history of kidney disease or kidney stones, they should also seek emergency medical attention to prevent further kidney damage.
Signs that a person should see their doctor as soon as possible due to a potential kidney infection include:
- a burning sensation when urinating
- flank pain, or pain in the sides or back
- foul smelling urine
- frequent urination
If a person is currently taking medications to treat a UTI and their symptoms worsen, they should seek medical attention. This could be a signal that the infection has progressed to their kidneys.
If a person has a potential kidney infection, they should not try to treat it with home remedies alone. Instead, they should see their doctor for an antibiotics prescription and use home remedies to increase their comfort.
Rest, hydration, and supportive therapies can all help a person give their body what it needs to boost healing when they have a kidney infection.
If a person is concerned that their antibiotics are not working effectively, they should see their doctor.