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Urinary tract infections: Urine testing and when to treat a urinary tract infection (UTI)

Urinary Tract Infections

Urine testing and when to treat a urinary tract infection (UTI)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is also called a bladder infection. It is usually treated with antibiotics to kill bacteria (germs).

Only use antibiotics when you are sure you have symptoms of a UTI. Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics if they are used when they don't need to be, which means antibiotics can't kill the bacteria. As well, antibiotics may have unwanted side effects and allergic reactions.

You can have bacteria in your urine (pee) even if you don't have a UTI. This is common in older adults and is not treated with antibiotics unless you have symptoms.

Cloudy or smelly pee usually means you need to drink more fluids. These are not considered symptoms of a UTI.


The main symptoms of a UTI can include 1 or more of the following:

  • A burning feeling when you pee.
  • Feeling like you have to pee often.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Pain in the lower belly (abdomen) or back.
  • Blood in your pee.


Your healthcare provider will likely do a urine test:

  • When you have symptoms of a UTI.
  • Before some bladder or kidney procedures.
  • When you are pregnant.

No testing

You do not need a urine test:

  • When you do not have UTI symptoms.
  • When your pee changes colour or has a smell, and you don't have UTI symptoms.

Health changes with no UTI symptoms

In older adults, a UTI does not usually cause changes in mood, balance, or energy. Before you have a urine test for a UTI, your healthcare provider should look at other more common causes of health changes, for example:

  • Not drinking enough fluids (being dehydrated).
  • Not getting enough sleep.
  • Side effects from medicines.
  • High or low blood sugar.
  • Depression.
  • Constipation (trouble having a bowel movement).
  • Untreated pain.
  • Other infections.

When you have a UTI

Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics for you before they get your test results back, or they may wait for your test results before prescribing antibiotics.

See your healthcare provider if you've been taking the antibiotics for 2 days and your symptoms aren't getting better.

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Current as of: November 1, 2023

Author: Pharmacy Services, Alberta Health Services

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.