Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common type of infection with over 8 million visits to health care providers each year. Women are affected more often than men, simply due to anatomy. The treatment for UTIs is antibiotic medication, which is well known for modifying the beneficial flora that reside in the digestive tract and urogenital tract. Furthermore, overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the increase of antibiotic resistance—the ability of certain bacteria to survive antibiotic treatment.

The recurrent nature of UTIs increases the likelihood that antibiotic resistance might develop due to the need to give multiple treatments, which lowers the sensitivity of bacteria to the antibiotics. A recent study published in the journal BioMed Central Family Practice offers good news, however. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam found that 70 percent of women with uncomplicated UTI symptoms who did not use antibiotics for a week either were cured or showed improvement.

“Women may be more receptive to the idea of delaying treatment than is commonly assumed by many clinicians. Given proper observations to simply doing nothing, or giving pain medication instead of an antibiotic, is an effective treatment and one which will reduce the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” stated Bart Knottnerus, MD, PhD, lead author.

Antibiotics can be miracle drugs when it comes to certain pathogenic infections that cannot be treated by another means. For this very reason, the use of antibiotics must be reserved for when it is truly needed so that these important medications do not become obsolete. Next time you have an uncomplicated UTI, talk to your doctor about the potential of waiting a week to see if antibiotics are necessary. You may get by with simple pain medication and good-old immune health.