Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to care for your health. We need to drink about four to six cups of water each day, on average. Some people might need to be careful not to drink too much water, including people with kidney or heart problems.
Good hydration is essential for many reasons, one of which might be helping to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
What Is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary tract. It might be in one part of the urinary tract, which consists of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. It can also move along the urinary tract into different parts as the infection develops. UTIs can cause a range of symptoms, including needing to urinate more and pain or burning when you pee.
What Is Dehydration?
Dehydration is what happens when your body loses more fluid than it takes in. You could become dehydrated because you’re not drinking enough to replace fluids lost through urination, sweating, vomiting, and other means. Dehydration is more likely to occur in several circumstances, such as when you are ill, during very hot weather, when exercising, or in older people. Dehydration can cause symptoms such as extreme thirst, a dry mouth, less frequent urination, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.
Can Dehydration Cause a UTI?
Can dehydration cause UTI? Dehydration may lead to a UTI and research has shown that staying hydrated can reduce your risk of UTIs. The flow of urine through the urinary tract and the frequency of urination are important factors in clearing bacteria and preventing infection. When someone is dehydrated, they may urinate less frequently. This could lead to a buildup of bacteria and an increased risk of developing a UTI due to the urinary tract not getting flushed out as often.
Can Dehydration Cause UTI Symptoms?
There is some crossover between symptoms of UTIs and symptoms of dehydration, as there are with many medical conditions. This means that you could experience the symptoms of dehydration and mistake them for the symptoms of a UTI.
Some of the symptoms of dehydration that could be confused with a UTI include dizziness and nausea, peeing small amounts, and changes in the appearance and odor of urine. However, someone with a UTI might be urinating small amounts frequently but someone who is dehydrated is more likely to be urinating less often than they normally do.
How to Tell the Difference Between a UTI or Dehydration
Although there can be some shared symptoms between UTIs and dehydration, there are also ways to tell the difference between them. It’s important to assess your symptoms to tell if you have a UTI or dehydration.
If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to experience symptoms such as:
- A dry mouth
- Feeling very thirsty
- Urinating and sweating less than usual
- Dry skin
- Dark urine color
If you have a UTI, your symptoms may include:
- Urinating more often
- Feeling pain or burning when you urinate
- Cloudy urine or blood in your urine
- Change in the odor of urine
- Pressure or pain in the abdomen and pelvis
You can experience both dehydration and a UTI at the same time too.
Can Dehydration or Not Drinking Enough Water Make UTIs Worse?
Anyone who has a UTI should make sure that they drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps to keep fluid flowing through the urinary tract, which flushes out bacteria. Not only can drinking water help to prevent UTIs, but it can also help to treat them.
Not drinking enough water when you have a UTI could lead to the infection getting worse, particularly if you haven’t sought treatment from a doctor. However, it’s still important to get antibiotic treatment to treat a UTI, as well as ensure you drink plenty of water.
How Much Water Should You Drink When You Have a UTI?
When you have a UTI, you should make sure that you keep drinking the usual recommended amount of water. That means that you should have about 6 to 8 cups of water each day to stay hydrated. You might be tempted to drink more, and you can if you’re thirsty, but there’s no need to drink excessively.
Can Drinking Enough Water Help You Prevent UTIs?
Drinking plenty of water can help you to prevent UTIs. Multiple studies have shown that drinking more water has helped to reduce the instance of UTIs in people who experience them frequently, particularly in women. One study showed that women who drank less than the recommended amount every day (an average of 4.5 cups or 1.1 liters) had 50% fewer episodes of recurrent cystitis when drinking 1.5 liters more water each day.
Can Overhydration Cause UTI?
Hydration matters, but it’s also possible to drink too much. Overhydration means your kidneys can’t process all of the water that you take in, leading to too much water in the body and low levels of sodium. So, while drinking a lot of water might not make a UTI worse, it could lead to other complications. It’s important to be cautious and drink the amount your doctor recommends to avoid drinking too much water.
When to See a Doctor
If you think that you have a UTI from dehydration or caused by anything else, you should see a doctor. UTIs need to be treated with antibiotics, which should be prescribed by a medical professional. Doctors can also provide advice on chronic dehydration and how you can make sure you’re getting enough daily fluids.
Get Help from an Online Doctor
Scheduling an appointment with an online doctor can help you to see someone quickly and at a convenient time. You can discuss your symptoms and find the right treatment in the comfort of your home or in any location that works for you.
- UTIs and dehydration can share some symptoms
- Dehydration is likely to make you urinate less, while a UTI can make you want to urinate more
- Dehydration can lead to UTIs but staying hydrated can prevent frequent UTIs
- Drink plenty of water when treating a UTI but be careful not to drink too much
- See a doctor if you have the symptoms of a UTI or chronic dehydration
- Harvard Health Publishing, How much water should you drink? (2022), available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink
- Mayo Clinic, Dehydration, Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
- Lean K, Nawaz RF, Jawad S, Vincent C. Reducing urinary tract infections in care homes by improving hydration. BMJ Open Qual. 2019 Jul 10;8(3):e000563. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1136/bmjoq-2018-000563 . PMID: 31363503; PMCID: PMC6629391.
- MedlinePlus, Dehydration, Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/dehydration.html
- McCollum BJ, Garigan T, Earwood J. PURL: Can drinking more water prevent urinary tract infections? J Fam Pract. 2020 Apr;69(3):E19-E20. PMID: 32289134; PMCID: PMC7271893.
- Lee LC, Noronha M. When plenty is too much: water intoxication in a patient with a simple urinary tract infection. BMJ Case Rep. 2016 Nov 1;2016:bcr2016216882. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1136/bcr-2016-216882 . PMID: 27803013; PMCID: PMC5129180.