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Kidney Infection: Care Instructions

Female and male urinary systems

Your Care Instructions

A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is a type of urinary tract infection, or UTI. Most UTIs are bladder infections. Kidney infections tend to make people much sicker than bladder infections do. A kidney infection is also more serious because it can cause lasting damage if it is not treated quickly.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Drink plenty of water. This may help wash out bacteria that are causing the infection. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Urinate often. Try to empty your bladder each time.
  • To relieve pain, take a hot shower or lay a heating pad (set on low) over your lower belly. Never go to sleep with a heating pad in place. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin.

To help prevent kidney infections

  • Drink plenty of water each day. This helps you urinate often, which clears bacteria from your system. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Urinate when you have the urge. Do not hold your urine for a long time. Urinate before you go to sleep.
  • If you have symptoms of a bladder infection, such as burning when you urinate or having to urinate often, call your doctor or nurse advice line so you can treat the problem before it gets worse. If you do not treat a bladder infection quickly, it can spread to the kidney.
  • Men should keep the tip of the penis clean.

If you are a woman, keep these ideas in mind.

  • Urinate right after you have sex.
  • Change sanitary pads often. Avoid douches, feminine hygiene sprays, and other feminine hygiene products that have deodorants.
  • After using the toilet, wipe from front to back.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms that a kidney infection is getting worse. These may include:
    • Pain or burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • Pain in the flank, which is just below the rib cage and above the waist on either side of the back.
    • Blood in the urine.
    • A fever.
  • You are vomiting or nauseated.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.