When Should You Seek Hospital Care for Kidney Infections?

A kidney infection, also known as pyelonephritis, is a serious medical condition that requires prompt medical attention. If left untreated, it can cause severe complications, including kidney damage, sepsis, and even death. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of a kidney infection and know when to seek hospital care. In this article, we’ll discuss the warning signs of a kidney infection and when it’s time to head to the hospital.

What Is a Kidney Infection?

A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that affects one or both kidneys. It occurs when bacteria from the bladder or urethra spread to the kidneys and cause an infection. Kidney infections are more common in women than men and can occur at any age. They are often caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) but can also be caused by other bacteria, such as Klebsiella, Proteus, or Pseudomonas.

What Are the Symptoms of a Kidney Infection?

The symptoms of a kidney infection often develop quickly and can be severe. They may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Flank pain (pain in the side of the body, between the ribs and hip)
  • Back pain
  • Painful or frequent urination
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General feeling of malaise or fatigue

If you have these symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention right away.

When Should You Seek Hospital Care for a Kidney Infection?

If you have a kidney infection, you should seek hospital care if:

  • You have a fever higher than 102°F (38.9°C) or a fever that doesn’t go away with medication
  • You have severe or worsening flank pain or back pain
  • You have signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, increased thirst, or decreased urine output
  • You have nausea and vomiting that doesn’t go away or gets worse
  • You have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract obstruction, such as inability to urinate or severe pain during urination
  • You are pregnant
  • You have a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or medication
  • You have a history of kidney disease or kidney transplant
  • You have multiple episodes of kidney infections or recurrent UTIs

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention right away. A kidney infection can quickly become a life-threatening condition if left untreated.

What Can You Expect During Hospital Care for a Kidney Infection?

During hospital care for a kidney infection, you can expect to undergo a variety of tests and treatments. Your doctor may:

  • Take a blood sample to check for signs of infection and kidney damage
  • Perform a urine test to confirm the presence of bacteria and determine which antibiotics are most effective
  • Administer intravenous (IV) fluids and antibiotics to help fight the infection and prevent dehydration
  • Perform imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or X-ray, to look for signs of kidney damage or obstruction
  • Recommend pain medication and other supportive measures to help manage symptoms and promote healing

You may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or longer, depending on the severity of your infection and any complications that arise.

How Can You Prevent Kidney Infections?

To reduce your risk of developing a kidney infection, you should:

  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help flush bacteria out of your urinary system
  • Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent the spread of bacteria to the urethra and bladder
  • Urinate frequently to prevent the buildup of bacteria in the bladder
  • Empty your bladder completely when you urinate
  • Urinate before and after intercourse to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract

You should also avoid using scented or harsh personal hygiene products that can irritate the vaginal area and lead to infection.


1. What is the treatment for a kidney infection?

The treatment for a kidney infection typically involves a course of antibiotics to eliminate the infection. IV antibiotics may be necessary in more severe cases or for people who are unable to take oral medication. You may also need pain medication and supportive care to manage your symptoms.

2. How long does it take to recover from a kidney infection?

The recovery time for a kidney infection depends on the severity of the infection and any complications that arise. With prompt and proper treatment, most people recover within 1 to 2 weeks. However, more severe infections or complications may require a longer recovery time.

3. Can kidney infections cause long-term damage?

If left untreated, a kidney infection can cause long-term damage to the kidneys, including scarring and decreased kidney function. It can also lead to life-threatening complications, such as sepsis and kidney failure.

4. Are kidney infections more common in men or women?

Kidney infections are more common in women than men. This is due to the shorter length of the female urethra, which makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder and kidneys.

5. How can you tell the difference between a kidney infection and a bladder infection?

A bladder infection, also known as cystitis, typically causes symptoms such as painful or frequent urination, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, and lower abdominal pain. A kidney infection causes similar symptoms, as well as fever, chills, and severe flank or back pain.


A kidney infection is a serious medical condition that requires prompt medical attention. If you have symptoms of a kidney infection, such as fever, flank pain, and painful urination, it’s essential to seek medical care right away. You should also take steps to prevent kidney infections by staying hydrated, practicing good hygiene, and emptying your bladder frequently. With proper treatment and care, most people recover from kidney infections without long-term complications.

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