Where to get UTI treatment in the USA
August 10, 2015 5:09 AM   Subscribe

My fabulous new spouse and I are about to jet off from the UK on our honeymoon in the southern US (GA, AL, MS, TN). I'm in good health and have full travel insurance but tend to get 2-3 urinary tract infections in the course of an average year. I'm a little paranoid about getting one while I'm over there and would rather not end up accessing unduly expensive treatment for this very routine minor ailment and having to claim it on insurance etc. Where do I go for treatment?

Here in the UK I can just head for my local NHS walk-in clinic and get prescribed the necessary antibiotics by a nurse practitioner without the need for a full-on doctor's appointment. Is there an equivalent in the US -- low-key, affordable and readily accessible treatment for a UTI that won't involve reams of paperwork and/or hundreds of dollars? I see Walgreen's has health clinics that will treat UTIs for under $100...

I know the easiest solution would have been to get some antibiotics just in case from my GP here in the UK, but I didn't think of it in time -- I leave in two days and my GP's waiting list for non-urgent appointments is currently 2 weeks+. :-(

I am female, if that matters.
posted by stuck on an island to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're on the right track, I was going to suggest a clinic within a pharmacy. CVS has them too, and sometimes you'll find one in a Target store also. You won't find any better combination of affordable and convenient in the U.S.
posted by something something at 5:16 AM on August 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I also get 2-3 UTI's a year, so I feel your pain on this one. If your GP is aware that you routinely get uncomplicated UTI's, give her a call and explain the situation. Ask if she can prescribe a round of antibiotics that you can have on standby. I do this every time I go on vacation, so I am not scrabbling for clinic appointments and pharmacies while out of the country.
posted by 8dot3 at 5:17 AM on August 10, 2015 [16 favorites]

There are these walk-in clinics at CVS and Walgreens. They are exactly what you are looking for.
posted by heathrowga at 5:22 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: N-thing walk-in clinics at a pharmacy. The ones attached to CVS are called "Minute Clinics".

Also wondering whether you've tried anything like d-mannose to prevent UTIs? A friend of mine gets frequent UTIs and she take a capsule every day. It seems to help her a lot.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:28 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreed on the walk-in clinics, but in case you find yourself not near a pharmacy with one, I will note there are also many stand-alone clinics. Search on "urgent care clinic" in the area you'll be in and something may pop up. Around here we have one attached to a local hospital, and another chain called MedExpress, but I don't know what the local options might be where you're travelling.

I have a vague sense that you'll find the pharmacy clinics even more low-key than the standalone urgent cares, though, so I'd start there.
posted by Stacey at 5:49 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

Also, if you're worried about how much it will cost, ask. The pharmacy-based clinics tend to be very straightforward about how much things will cost; the urgent care type facilities can vary. Ask how much the visit will cost if you pay today and don't have insurance. The antibiotic prescription itself will probably be very inexpensive.
posted by mskyle at 6:09 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing urgent care clinics. It'll probably be around $100, which is unreasonable but not ludicrous. Either a stand-alone urgent care clinic or one attached to a pharmacy would be fine. Some hospitals may also have urgent care clinics. Generally you can identify them by their hours, which usually will include weekend hours but will not include late night or overnight hours.

One warning -- make sure you're going to an urgent care clinic and not a stand-alone ER. Stand-alone ERs can look very similar to regular urgent care clinics, but they cost a lot more. (They only exist in some states, and they're a relatively new development.)
posted by pie ninja at 6:10 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

another cheer for d-mannose -- taking it in pills did nothing, taking it in water once a day did almost nothing, taking in water twice a day for a month cured my UTIs.

As a note for when you get back -- I was getting very frequent UTIs, without a clear cause. Turns out I had a ureaplasma. Might be something to get tested for upon your return.
posted by femmegrrr at 6:22 AM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also drink cranberry juice or take cranberry tablets on a regular basis. Rumor has it that cranberry products make the bladder inhospitable to bacteria. Its a major staple for me and many of my friends.
posted by PJMoore at 6:32 AM on August 10, 2015

I would phone your GP up and ask if they can do you a script - mine never wants to actually see me in person for UTIs and will just leave a prescription at reception for me to collect.
posted by tinkletown at 6:36 AM on August 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

There's also Ellura, if you anticipate the possibility of an infection. But if you're experiencing interstitial cystitis (now known as "bladder pain syndrome," according to urologist), make a habit of avoiding the "four c's".
posted by mmiddle at 6:37 AM on August 10, 2015

Go to an urgent care center. It is much less expensive than a visit to the hospital emergency room.
posted by tckma at 6:39 AM on August 10, 2015

Best answer: Planned Parenthood also treats UTIs, though you might have to deal with protesters outside, especially given the current push to defund the organization. Depending on your politics, you might find paying for services there an advantage or a disadvantage, but it's at least another option.
posted by jaguar at 7:38 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Our local hospital system has a walk-in clinic, and they would treat you. However, at least once when I went there, the billing paperwork came back saying "emergency room" which may or may not be a different category for insurance purposes. And it was expensive. When I had a UTI, they gave me an antibiotic that was prescribed over the phone by some doctor several states away, and I was charged $250 for his services separate from the clinic's bill. Without notice or explanation, of course. It's very hard in the US to figure in advance what health care is going to cost.

I have no experience with Target/CVS/Walgreens walk-ins, but if they can't handle a UTI, they should be closed.

Aside from CVS or Target clinics, there are doctors in some places who have walk-in practice. The slang name in the business is "doc-in-a-box." I would search for "walk-in clinic".
posted by SemiSalt at 7:39 AM on August 10, 2015

Nthing Planned Parenthood.
posted by witchen at 7:40 AM on August 10, 2015

Best answer: Absolutely CVS Minute Clinic or Walgreens Healthcare Clinic. They're located all over the country. You'll check in on a computer screen, pee in a cup, pick up your antibiotics just outside the waiting room and be on your way an hour or so later, about $75 poorer. This is precisely what I do every couple of years or so. Hell, the nurse at the clinic by my house remembers me and typically knows why I'm back.

Generic urgent care places under another company's umbrella may cost quite a bit more than $75. Emergency rooms will cost a lot more than that.
posted by theraflu at 7:59 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

UK based answer here- if you want some tablets to take with you then Use dr fox.... Google it! I think they are owned by boots or someone like it and they have next day delivery!
posted by pairofshades at 8:05 AM on August 10, 2015

Best answer: I have no experience with Target/CVS/Walgreens walk-ins, but if they can't handle a UTI, they should be closed.

Oh no, they handle tons of those. My wife just went in the other day with an eye problem - she went to the Walgreens clinic right when they opened.

The first question the NP asked was "UTI?". NP explained that 99% of the women waiting at the door when the clinic opened were overnight UTI cases that were going crazy from the pain.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:11 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just a caution- if you go to a stand alone urgent care center MAKE SURE it is an urgent care center and NOT a stand alone Emergency Room. These stand alone ERs have started popping up a lot in Florida and their treatment costs are MUCH higher than an urgent care center.

At an urgent care center (UCC) they will have a price list and ask for insurance information up front. No worries if you are paying cash, but they will ask about payment arrangements FIRST. At an ER, they will treat first and ask payment/insurance questions after the fact. This is a surprising cost for many people who don't realize that the free-standing building that is NOT attached to a hospital is an ER. Don't get suckered.

That all said, the clinics inside (some) CVS, Walgreens, Target and Wal-Marts are perfectly capable of treating a UTI- probably for $100 or less including meds.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:41 AM on August 10, 2015

Absolutely CVS Minute Clinic or Walgreens Healthcare Clinic. They're located all over the country.

Except where they're not. Not every store has them, and not every city/state allows them. If you google Urgent Care for the zip code you're in at the time, they will be returned in your search results if they do exist, but don't just go to a CVS thinking there will be a clinic there.

Also note that Yelp will have reviews for urgent care centers in your area, and while people can be overly cranky in their reviews, you can check for patterns like "this place is never open so I don't even know what's up here" or "I never have to wait more than 20 minutes" etc and choose accordingly.

But exhaust your options for getting the necessary medication before you leave. Aside from the expense and convenience factor, the last thing you want is a surprise antibiotic allergy from something you don't normally use.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:42 AM on August 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Just want to note that you will not see the CVS/Walgreen's clinics in most(all?) of Alabama because the state has stricter laws on nurse practitioners working without a medical doctor present. Plenty of urgent and emergency medical options in the metro areas, though, should you need them.
posted by ndfine at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, my Dr. always gives me a prescription for the meds that I fill before traveling. The one time I didn't do that I was a miserable gal while I waited for the clinic to get around to calling a script into a pharmacy near where I was staying. Keep hydrated and take advantage of bathrooms where ever you go. ;)
posted by OkTwigs at 10:47 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have seen CVS Pharmacy clinics in California with nurse practitioners, which are typically cheaper than doctors. But 5 years of working at an insurance company taught me that laws regarding nurse practitioners vary considerably by state. In some states, they can operate independently. In others, a doctor must review and sign off on all their medical decisions. (Alabama has such strict rules concerning medical and insurance stuff, they were handled by a special team. I found this bizarre because it has such a bad reputation in the US as hicksville, so it flies in the face of what I expected.)

So, yes, there are clinics and urgent care centers that will be generally cheaper and more convenient than a full blown hospital ER, but the exact answer will depend a great deal on what state you are in. The US is not remotely homogenous in this regard. It is a big country and the original concept was that each state was an independent country loosely associated with the others for purposes of defense. The exact political configuration we started with failed every other time it was tried and the US is still around because they modified it and gave more power to another level of government at the federal level. So the question you are asking is akin to asking "Where in the EU should I go..." And the answer is "That depends on what country you are in." So if you are going to be in just one state, you might get better answers by naming it so locals can hook you up.
posted by Michele in California at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: cystex is helpful if you sense/fear the beginning of a urinary tract infection. i've used it a good bit--it can be a big help, or a bit of prevention to put your mind at ease. it's anti-bacterial (milder than rx i'm sure), and i tend to pair it w/cran pills + lots of water.

if i have a very mild UTI, or the beginning of one, it can work without the need for a doc. or it can mitigate the pain til i get to a doc if it's a worse UTI.
posted by JBD at 7:23 PM on August 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all! This has put my mind at rest -- I was dreading the thought of winding up in an ER and having to justify a $500+ (or whatever, I'm sure it gets more expensive than that) dose of antibiotics to my travel insurance company.

Many thanks for the help and additional advice about preventative supplements too!
posted by stuck on an island at 4:32 PM on August 12, 2015

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