When to Go to ER for UTI: Symptoms Requiring Emergency Care

When to go to ER for UTI: Identify severe UTI symptoms like intense pain, fever, vomiting to seek emergency care and avoid potential kidney infection complications.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common and usually treatable. Sometimes, though, they get really bad.1 They may move up to your kidneys, leading to serious symptoms like malaise, fever, and chills. These symptoms can hint that the kidneys are in trouble, risking your life.1

If your urine has blood or you feel like you have the flu, go to the ER. Both signs show the infection is serious.1 Quick treatment can lower the danger for problems like kidney damage and even death.1

Some people need to be extra careful with UTIs, such as pregnant women and those with certain health issues.1 They might need special care to avoid bad complications.1

Key Takeaways

  • Seek emergency care for UTI symptoms like fever, chills, vomiting, and blood in urine, as they may indicate a severe kidney infection.
  • Certain groups, such as pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, are at higher risk for complicated UTIs and require prompt medical attention.
  • Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term complications from UTIs, such as kidney damage and sepsis.
  • Urine that appears unexpectedly bloody warrants an immediate trip to the emergency room.
  • Flu-like symptoms associated with a UTI may signal a need for emergency care to address a potentially serious infection.

Understanding Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common and affect millions each year.2 They bring discomfort and pain. UTIs come about when bacteria, like Escherichia coli (E. coli), get into the urinary system. This happens mostly through the urethra.2 Once in the bladder, these bacteria can grow and cause infection.1 Sometimes, viruses and fungi can also be the culprits.

Types of UTIs: Lower and Upper

Lower UTIs, or Cystitis, target the bladder. They show up with symptoms such as having to pee often, a strong need to go, pain or stinging when you do, and belly pain.2 Upper UTIs, known as Pyelonephritis, are more serious. They affect the kidneys and could be dangerous if not treated.1

Common Causes of UTIs

Normally, UTIs are due to bacteria or fungi, though viruses can also be the cause in rare cases.2 Lower UTIs focus on the bladder and urethra. The upper UTIs spread to involve the ureters and kidneys.2

Risk Factors for UTIs

UTIs more often target women because of their shorter urethra. Issues like sex, urinary tract structure problems, catheters, and hormonal changes can up the risk.2 Those facing more complex UTIs may be pregnant, have weak immune systems, problems like diabetes, cancer, or HIV, or issues that affect urine flow. These issues can include a swollen prostate or kidney stones, use of catheters, and frequent antibiotic use.1

Symptoms of Lower UTIs (Cystitis)

The key signs of a lower UTI include needing to pee often, feeling like you have to go right away, and a burning feeling when you urinate. Plus, you might feel pain or pressure in your pelvic area.1 These symptoms show the infection is in your bladder and urethra.

Frequent Urination

Needing to urinate a lot and urgently is a big sign of a lower UTI.1 Your bladder might always feel full because of the irritation and swelling.

Burning Sensation During Urination

Feeling a burn when you pee is another clear symptom.1 The infection makes your bladder and urethra irritated, causing this pain.

Pelvic Pain and Discomfort

Lower stomach or pelvic pain is also common with a lower UTI.1 This happens from the swelling and discomfort in your urinary tract.

Symptoms of Upper UTIs (Pyelonephritis)

Pyelonephritis is a big word for serious kidney infections. They can be life-threatening if not treated. Symptoms like the flu show the infection has reached the kidneys. If you have these symptoms, seek medical help right away.

High Fever and Chills

A high fever, above 101°F or 38.3°C, could mean a kidney infection.3 In the U.S., yearly cases are 15 to 17 per 10,000 females and 3 to 4 per 10,000 males.3 Untreated, it can be deadly. Get emergency help if you have a high fever and UTI signs.

Nausea and Vomiting

Feeling sick and throwing up might mean a serious kidney infection.4 Some groups, like older adults or pregnant individuals, face more risks. If you have these symptoms, go to the ER. It could be a serious infection that needs quick care.

Back or Flank Pain

Pain in your back or side could be from a bad UTI or kidney stone.3 Young, active women see these infections more, but it’s riskier for pregnant women. If you feel this way, go to the hospital. It might be a serious infection or another problem needing fast treatment.

When to Go to the ER for UTI

It’s vital to know when to get medical care for UTIs.5 You should seek emergency help if symptoms get worse or do not go away, and if you experience severe pain in your pelvis or back.1 Also, a high fever, ongoing nausea, and if there is blood in your urine. These signs may show a serious infection or complications. Immediate medical care is crucial in such cases.

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1 UTIs that spread to the upper urinary tract can bring on serious symptoms. These can include feeling tired all the time, fever, chills, throwing up, and pain in your back or side.5 If your pelvis or back hurts a lot, especially with a high fever, you could have a kidney infection.5 If you keep feeling sick and throwing up, this might mean your kidneys are affected. Plus, urine that is pink, red, or brownish can be a sign of a severe UTI.

5 Understanding when to get help is crucial. If your UTI symptoms last or get worse after a day or two, see a doctor.5 People who are pregnant, have weak immune systems, or are older are more at risk. Also, if you’ve had kidney stones before or if your symptoms are serious, don’t wait to get checked by a doctor.

1 ER visits for bad UTIs may include health history review, physical checks, and various tests. These can be urine checks, blood tests, looking into your bladder with a scope, or imaging like a CT scan.1 Doctors treat mild UTIs with pills but infections that are bad might need a hospital. There, they use stronger antibiotics through a vein.1 Ignoring a UTI could damage your organs, cause sepsis, or harm your bladder or prostate.

Symptoms Requiring Emergency CarePotential Complications
  • Persistent or worsening UTI symptoms
  • Intense pelvic or back pain
  • High fever (above 101°F)
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in the urine
  • Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  • Kidney stones
  • Sepsis (life-threatening)
  • Kidney damage or scarring
  • Bladder or prostate harm

5 Getting help fast is key to avoid serious UTI effects or kidney harm.5 If your symptoms don’t get better, seeking medical help quickly is important. It ensures you get the right care and avoid future health problems.

Severe Pelvic or Abdominal Pain

Intense pelvic or abdominal pain could mean a serious UTI or a kidney stone.6 This pain level needs the ER’s attention. It might signal a spreading infection or other serious issues.6 So, if you’re in a lot of pain here, it’s key to get help fast. This helps avoid more trouble and gets the right care for your issue.

Some UTIs move to the kidneys, causing deep back or side pain.6 Feeling feverish, chilled, or sick to your stomach with this pain is not good. It’s a sign of a big problem needing quick medical help.6 Waiting too long to treat a severe UTI can hurt your kidneys badly or even lead to a life-threatening infection. So, if your pain is bad, go to the ER right away.6

People with past [kidney stones, urinary tract problems, or weak immune defenses] face more UTI risks that need emergency care.78 Getting quick medical help is crucial to stop an infection from getting worse.78

Blood in Urine

Seeing blood in your urine means you should go to the hospital right away. It might be a sign of a bad infection or another health issue needing quick care.1 This blood, called hematuria, often points to a severe UTI or other problems like kidney stones or damage.9

If your pee looks pink, red, or brown, don’t wait to get help.1 Some UTIs affect only the lower area and show mild signs. But seeing blood can mean the infection is very serious, even reaching your kidneys.9 Signs include blood in pee, feeling tired, pain, and flu-like symptoms. These mean you must see a doctor now.9

Not taking blood in your urine seriously can harm your kidneys or be deadly.1 Getting quick help is vital to avoid long-term problems and get well soon.1

Persistent Vomiting and Nausea

If you have persistent nausea and vomiting, it might be a sign of a serious UTI.1 If these symptoms show up with a high fever or intense pain, it could mean the infection hit your kidneys. You should go to the emergency room right away for this.2 This kind of infection needs quick medical care.5

SymptomIndicationMedical Attention Required
Persistent nausea and vomitingKidney infection or other complicationsEmergency room visit
High fever (above 101°F)Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)Urgent medical attention
Intense pelvic, back, or abdominal painSevere infection or kidney stonesImmediate medical attention
Blood in urineSerious infection or other medical conditionEmergency room visit

Getting quick medical help is vital for bad UTI symptoms. They might mean the infection is now serious. This needs fast care to avoid big problems.125

High Fever and Chills

Feeling a high fever can signify a kidney infection. This risk is higher at above 101°F or 38.3°C.1 It’s critical to get help fast if you have fever and other UTI signs.1

These symptoms may mean that the infection has gotten to your kidneys. If things get very bad, it could even lead to sepsis or shock.2 In these cases, quick medical help is a must.2

Fast action and treatment cut the chances of kidney or bladder issues.1 Serious UTIs might show as upper back pain, blood in urine, and severe fever. If you have these, getting help right away is key.1

See also  Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms: Signs & Treatment

For very bad UTIs, doctors in the ER might use IV medication. This speeds up recovery and lowers risks.2 If you’ve got fever and signs of a UTI, don’t wait. Go to the ER quickly.12

History of Kidney Stones or Complications

If you’ve had kidney stones before and now feel like you might have a UTI, it’s crucial to see a doc soon.10 About 10% of us will get these stones, which are formed by stuff like calcium.10 If UTIs have caused you problems before, like hurting your kidneys or keep coming back, don’t wait to get help.

Kidney stones hurt a lot and can make you feel like throwing up or give you chills.10 Quick tests and treatments for both UTIs and kidney stones can stop the pain and keep more serious trouble away.10 Doctors may use CT scans or ultrasounds to check for stones and give you antibiotics for UTIs.10 To stop more stones from forming, drink lots of water and stay away from certain foods.10 If a stone’s too big, you might need a shockwave treatment or surgery to remove it.10

11 Lots of people get kidney stones each year, with things like high blood pressure and sugary diets upping the chances.11 The most common stone is made of calcium oxalate, but others can form too, like uric acid.11 Symptoms can be bad tummy or back pain, blood in your pee, and feeling sick.11 Small stones may slide out by themselves, but big ones might need a doc’s help.11

11 If you feel really sick with a high fever or peeing is too tough, ER might be the place for you.11 There, they’ll do tests like blood work and X-rays to figure out what’s up.11 The fix for stones could be simple meds, shockwaves, or in some cases, having them taken out.11 It’s good to stay hydrated, watch your salt, and keep in shape to avoid kidney stones.11 Some ERs are all set to quickly check you if you’re feeling the pain from kidney stones.11

Weakened Immune System

Some people face a higher risk of getting severe UTIs, especially if their immune systems are weak. This includes those with conditions like diabetes, cancer, or HIV.1 If these people show any signs of a UTI, they should quickly get medical help. An untreated infection can get bad fast and cause serious problems.1 Those with weaker immune systems might need hospital care and strong antibiotics for their severe UTI.1

People who are more likely to get bad UTIs are those with weaker immune systems. This group includes folks with diabetes, cancer, or HIV.5 Fast treatment is key for them since the UTI can quickly become a big issue. Left untreated, it could hurt their kidneys or even become life-threatening.5

If you have a UTI and a weakened immune system, watch for signs like peeing a lot, pain when you pee, or seeing blood in your urine.15 Get help right away rather than waiting. Delaying care could lead to a more severe infection and serious conditions like sepsis. Quick action is crucial for handling these situations.1

Pregnancy and UTIs

Being pregnant makes women more vulnerable to severe UTIs. This is because the body changes during pregnancy. These changes can make the urinary tract more prone to infections.12 Hormonal changes also increase the risk, so pregnant women are more likely to develop UTIs.

UTIs in pregnancy can cause serious issues. They might lead to preterm labor or low birth weight babies.12 If a pregnant woman shows signs of a UTI – like needing to pee a lot, feeling a burn when peeing, or pain in the pelvis – it’s crucial to see a doctor right away. This can help prevent harm to both mom and baby.

12 The bacteria E. coli is often behind UTIs. It can spread from the rectum to the urethra if hygiene is not good.12 If a UTI is suspected, a urine test is done. This checks for bacteria, white blood cells, and red blood cells in the urine of pregnant women.

For UTIs in pregnant women, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics. The treatment goes on for 3 to 7 days. They often suggest safe antibiotics for pregnancy, like amoxicillin and erythromycin.12 These steps help in treating the infection without harm to the baby.

12 A UTI spreading to the kidneys is called pyelonephritis. It can lead to serious risks, like preterm labor. Other issues include adult respiratory distress syndrome, anemia, and continuous infection.12 Preventing UTIs by drinking plenty of water, good toilet habits, and other steps is important during pregnancy.

12 To avoid UTIs in pregnancy, it’s key to stay hydrated. Personal hygiene in the bathroom is crucial. Always go to the bathroom before and after sex. Wear cotton undies and steer clear of strong scented feminine products.12 These steps help in UTI prevention while keeping the baby safe.

See also  Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms: Signs & Treatment

Home Remedies and Prevention Strategies

UTIs need a doctor’s care, but you can use home remedies to cut your risk.13

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Water helps clear bacteria from your pee. Aim for eight to ten glasses a day.14

Cranberry Juice and Supplements

Cranberry juice or pills might stop bacteria from sticking in your urinary tract.14

Pain Relief Medications

Non-prescription pain pills like ibuprofen can ease UTI pain for a while.13

Proper Hygiene Practices

Good hygiene, especially after going to the bathroom, keeps bacteria away. This lowers your UTI chance.13

Seeking Medical Care: Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room

If you have a5 UTI, you might be able to get better at home after seeing a doctor. But, urgent care is needed if the symptoms are more serious or if you’re in a lot of pain.2 You should go to urgent care for most UTIs, but if it’s really bad, you might need to head to the emergency room. This is especially true if you show signs of a kidney infection or if you have a high fever, really bad pain, or are throwing up.1 Getting help quickly is key. UTIs can turn into major problems fast if you leave them untreated.5

If your UTI is on the milder side, you can probably manage it at home after seeing a doctor. But, if you have symptoms like back pain, fever, chills, and nausea, you need to seek help fast.1 These signs could mean the infection is serious and has spread.2 You should get to a doctor right away if you see these symptoms.1

Some UTIs are more severe and can be dangerous if not treated.2 They might even lead to sepsis and shock. In these cases, quick treatment in the emergency room with IV meds is crucial.2

Figuring out when to seek care is really important to avoid UTI complications.5 Early treatment can lower the risk of things like kidney damage and sepsis.1


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are both common and largely treatable. Yet, not treating them timely can lead to severe outcomes. These outcomes include kidney damage and in some cases, situations that threaten life.15

Knowing when to seek emergency care helps prevent such outcomes. Signs like severe pain, fever, vomiting, and blood in urine are key indicators. Responding promptly to these symptoms can help begin treatment quickly.15

UTIs affect women much more than men, with females seeing them at least four times more often.16 Around 40% of US women will face a UTI in their lifetime, and getting a second one within a year is not uncommon.16

Several factors increase UTI risks, such as unique urinary tract shapes, diabetes, taking antibiotics, and being sexually active.16

Learning about emergency symptoms and knowing when to get medical help is vital. So is regular prevention. Following these steps can lower the chances of severe or recurrent UTIs.15

Addressing UTIs promptly helps keep the entire urinary system healthy. By doing so, the risk of long-term complications decreases.15


When should I go to the emergency room for a UTI?

Head to the ER if your UTI symptoms are severe. This includes worsening pain, high fever, and nausea. Also, if you see blood in your urine, it’s a sign of a serious infection.

What are the symptoms of a lower UTI (Cystitis)?

Common signs of a lower UTI are frequent urination and a strong need to pee. You might feel a burn when you urinate. Plus, there could be pelvic pain.

What are the symptoms of an upper UTI (Pyelonephritis)?

If an upper UTI is brewing, you might notice a high fever and chills. Nausea and vomiting are often present. You may also have severe back or flank pain. This needs immediate attention.

When should I seek emergency care for a UTI?

For a UTI, emergency care is needed if the symptoms are getting worse. This includes intense pain and high fever. Also, pay attention to persistent nausea, vomiting, or blood in your urine.

What are the risk factors for developing a severe UTI?

People with weak immune systems, like diabetics and those with cancer, are at a higher risk. Pregnant women also face more serious UTI risks. They all should see a doctor right away if symptoms show up.

How can I prevent UTIs?

To avoid UTIs, drink lots of fluids, especially water, to keep bacteria at bay. Consider taking cranberry supplements. For comfort, use pain relievers. And always remember to keep clean.

When should I visit the emergency room versus an urgent care center for a UTI?

In serious cases, like high fever, severe pain, or vomiting, head to the ER. Milder issues can often be managed at an urgent care center. Quick medical attention is key to avoid complications.

Source Links

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/uti-when-to-go-to-hospital
  2. https://wnj.org/is-a-uti-serious-when-to-go-to-the-er-urinary-tract-infection-symptoms/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519537/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-health/kidney-infection-when-to-go-to-hospital
  5. https://austiner.com/blog/utis-when-to-go-to-a-hospital/
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/uti-cramps
  7. https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2022/apr/when-to-see-a-doctor-for-a-urinary-tract-infection-uti/
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
  9. https://www.advanceer.com/resources/blog/2019/may/how-to-know-if-you-have-a-urinary-tract-infectio/
  10. https://www.advancedurology.net/blog/do-i-have-kidney-stones-or-a-uti-how-to-tell-the-difference
  11. https://www.visitcompletecare.com/blog/when-to-go-to-er-for-kidney-stones/
  12. https://www.webmd.com/women/pregnancy-urinary-tract-infection
  13. https://nafc.org/bhealth-blog/home-remedies-for-utis/
  14. https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-wellness-uti-antibiotics
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9452062/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470195/