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Kidney Infection (Adult, Female)

Illustration showing the outline of the body with the organs of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and urethra.

An infection of the kidney is also called "pyelonephritis." It usually starts as a bladder infection ("cystitis") that spreads to the kidneys. Pyelonephritis is more serious than a bladder infection. It can cause severe illness if not treated properly.

The usual symptoms include an aching pain in the back, side, or lower abdomen. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, blood in the urine, an urge to urinate, and a burning sensation when urinating. Treatment is usually oral antibiotics, or in more severe cases, intramuscular or IV antibiotics. These are started right away and may be changed once urine culture results determine the infecting organisms.

Home care

The following are general care guidelines:

  1. Stay home from work or school. Rest in bed until your fever breaks and you are feeling better.

  2. Drink lots of fluid (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day, unless you must restrict fluids for other medical reasons). This will force the medicine into your urinary system and flush the bacteria out of your body.

  3. Avoid sex until you have finished all of your medicine and your symptoms are gone.

  4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods. These foods may irritate the kidney and bladder.

  5. You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.]

Follow-up care

Follow up with your doctor or as advised by our staff for a repeat urine test in 10 days. This will ensure that your infection is fully cleared.

[NOTE: If you had an X-ray, CT scan, or other diagnostic test, it will be reviewed by a specialist. You will be notified of any new findings that may affect your care.]

When to seek medical care

Get prompt medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C) after 48 hours of treatment

  • No improvement by the third day of treatment

  • Increasing back or abdominal pain

  • Repeated vomiting or inability to take oral medicine

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting


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