Here’s how to get through the day if you have a urinary tract infection.
Medically reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson and words by Ellie Broughton
If you catch the flu you’re guaranteed a rough ride but at least you know bed-rest is the best option to get you better, and staying away from the office will help prevent the spread of infection. But what happens if you’re suffering from an ailment that’s not quite debilitating enough to put you to bed, but painful enough to make you uncomfortable at your desk?
Work is stressful enough as it is, but one thing that makes professional life that little bit more challenging is a bout of cystitis. It’s tough popping to the loo every five minutes and trying to concentrate on the job at hand when you’re in pain.
We speak to GP Dr Toni Hazell about how to quickly overcome cystitis in the workplace without interfering with your daily tasks:
What are common cystitis symptoms?
Cystitis can be uncomfortable whenever you get it, but it’s particularly tricky if you’re at work and trying to go about your normal day. ‘Cystitis is often painful and uncomfortable,’ says Hazell. ‘It can stop you sitting still and you can feel quite unwell.’
The most common symptom of cystitis is pain when you wee (otherwise known as dysuria). This happens if bacteria gets into your urethra and irritates it, which can make it inflamed. Other cystitis symptoms include:
- Needing to wee more often than usual.
- Feeling that after weeing you need to wee again soon after.
- Sometimes it can make your wee dark, cloudy or smelly too.
The good news is cystitis usually clears up on its own after a few days, but if your symptoms persist you might need to get a prescription for antibiotics from your GP to fight the infection. Likewise if you’re pregnant, worried you have an STI, or notice blood in your wee, visit your GP rather than waiting it out.
In the meantime, try the following cystitis-busting tips so you can go about your normal day without letting a nasty infection interfere with your workload:
- Drink up
Drinking lots of fluids is essential for cystitis recovery, because it dilutes the acidity of your wee and also flushes out the infection. Opt for water, and avoid sugary or acidic juices and soft drinks.
‘You’ll probably be getting up to pee all the time anyway, but it should be a bit less sore if you stay hydrated because the urine is more dilute, so it should hopefully be a bit less uncomfortable,’ explains Dr Hazell.
- Don’t dismiss painkillers
Dr Hazell also recommends that patients take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to manage the discomfort.
‘For some reason there’s often a lot of pride in not taking painkillers. But they’re available over-the-counter for a reason and if they help, then take them for a few days,’ advises Dr Hazell.
- Don’t hold your pee in
If you have cystitis you should go to the toilet as soon as you need to pee, and completely empty your bladder when you go.
- Opt for comfortable clothing
Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear – they are going to be more comfortable than restrictive clothes, such as jeans and tights.
- Stand up
If your job involves long periods of sitting at a desk and you feel uncomfortable during the day, getting up and walking about can relieve discomfort, so take regular tea breaks.
- Try hot water
Peeing while sat in a warm bath can ease cystitis pain, but as you don’t have that option on the office, opt for a hot water bottle on your stomach or thighs to ease the pain.
💡 Some women develop thrush when they’re taking antibiotics, which might explain why symptoms seem to get worse before getting better, so seek relevant treatment.
- Skip cranberry juice
Urban legend has it that cranberry juice helps cure cystitis, but there’s little evidence to suggest it is effective. Cranberry juice might even make the problem worse because of the high sugar content which can encourage bacteria to grow, so stick to water.
- Avoid sex
Obviously this last tip is for after-hours and not usually going to be a problem in the office, but cystitis can sometimes crop up after sex, so it’s best to avoid intercourse again until your symptoms have completely cleared up.