Symptoms of kidney infection
A kidney infection is more serious than cystitis, a common infection of the bladder that makes urinating (when you pee) painful. The symptoms of a kidney infection usually develop quite quickly over a few hours or days.
Common symptoms include:
- pain and discomfort in your side, lower back or around your genitals
- high temperature (it may reach 39.5C or 103.1F)
- shivering or chills
- feeling very weak or tired
- loss of appetite
- feeling sick or being sick
You may have other symptoms if you also have cystitis or urethritis (an infection of the urethra). These additional symptoms may include:
- pain or a burning sensation during urination
- needing to urinate very often or urgently
- feeling that you're unable to urinate fully
- blood in your urine
- cloudy or foul smelling urine
- pain in your lower abdomen
Children with a kidney infection may also have additional symptoms, such as:
- a lack of energy
- poor feeding and/or vomiting
- not growing at the expected rate
- abdominal pain
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- blood in the urine
- unpleasant smelling urine
Causes of a kidney infection
A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) usually happens when bacteria infect your kidneys. The bacteria are usually a type called E. coli, which live in your bowel.
Treating a kidney infection
Kidney infections are quite rare. They can happen at any age, but are much more common in women.
Most people with a kidney infection can be treated at home with a course of antibiotics, and possibly painkillers as well.
When to see your GP
You should contact your GP if you:
- have a fever
- have persistent tummy, lower back or genital pain
- notice a change to your usual pattern of urination
Contact your GP immediately or out of hours GP service if you think your child may have a kidney infection.
Help with preventing infections
You can reduce your chances of developing a kidney infection by keeping your bladder and urethra (the tube that allows urine to pass out of your body) free from bacteria.
You can help prevent an infection by:
- drinking plenty of fluids
- keeping your genitals clean
- treating any constipation
To help keep your urinary tract free from bacteria:
- go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need to urinate (to pee), rather than holding it in
- wipe from front to back after going to the toilet
- practice good hygiene by washing your genitals every day and before having sex
- empty your bladder after having sex
- if you're a woman, avoid ‘hovering’ over a toilet seat as it can result in your bladder not being fully emptied