You can buy dipstick test kits without a prescription. You use them at home to check for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Talk to your doctor about using a test kit.
The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Urine in the bladder is normally sterile. This means it does not contain any bacteria or other germs (such as fungi). But bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra.
UTIs are more common in women and girls than in men. This may be partly because the female urethra is shorter and closer to the anus. This allows bacteria from the intestines to come into contact more easily with the urethra. Men also have an antibacterial substance in their prostate gland that reduces their risk.
The dipstick test kit contains specially treated plastic strips called dipsticks. You hold them in your urine stream or dip them in a sample of your urine. The strips test for a substance (called nitrite) produced by most UTIs. Certain types of strips also test for white blood cells (leukocytes). Some types of dipsticks can test for both nitrite and leukocytes. But most types test for only one or the other. An area on the end of the strip changes color if you have an infection.
Most UTIs are easy to cure with antibiotics. But an untreated infection may spread to the kidneys and cause a more serious problem. If you use a home test kit, make sure that your doctor knows about any abnormal test results. This will help make sure that a serious problem is not missed.
Why It Is Done
A self-test for urinary tract infection (UTI) is done under the care of your doctor to:
- Find a UTI, especially in people who have UTIs often. Certain conditions increase the risk for having a UTI. Your risk is higher if you are pregnant, have diabetes, or have a condition that affects urine flow, such as kidney stones, stroke, or a spinal cord injury. In adults, a UTI usually causes symptoms such as pain or burning during urination, frequent urination, or the sudden and frequent urge to urinate. But older adults and young children with UTIs may not have these symptoms. For this reason, experts suggest that older adults and children see a doctor for a possible UTI.
- Check how well treatment of a UTI is working. If you are being treated for a UTI, you can test your urine at home to see if the antibiotics have cured the infection.
- Test young children who have frequent bladder infections but may not be able to report their symptoms. A home test for these children is also done under a doctor's care.
How To Prepare
Most home test kits for urinary tract infections (UTIs) were first made for use in a doctor's office or lab. Some drugstores stock these test kits or can order them for you without a prescription. Many types of home test kits can be ordered over the Internet.
A UTI test kit usually contains a clean collection cup, special plastic dipsticks, and instructions that explain how to perform the test. You will need a clock that measures time in seconds. You will also need wipes or towelettes to clean your genital area before you collect a urine sample.
For any home test, you should follow some general steps:
- Check the expiration date on the package. Do not use a test kit after its expiration date. The chemicals in the kit may not work as they should after that date.
- Store the test kits as directed. Many kits need to be stored in a refrigerator or other cool place.
- Carefully read the instructions that come with your test before you do the test. Look for any special steps you need to take to prepare for the test. For example, do you need to avoid certain foods? Do you need to limit your physical activity?
- Follow the directions exactly. Do all the steps in order. Don't skip any of them.
- If a step in the test needs to be timed, use a clock. Do not guess at the timing. Guessing could change your results.
- If you are color-blind or have trouble telling one color from another, have someone else read the test results for you. Most test results depend on being able to see color changes on a test strip.
- Write down the results of the test so you can talk to your doctor about them.
How It Is Done
Do not urinate for at least 4 hours before testing. A first morning urine sample (that has collected in the bladder overnight) provides the most accurate test results.
Test the urine within 15 minutes after you collect the urine sample. Or you can place the dipstick in the urine stream as you urinate.
Use a clean-catch midstream urine sample for testing:
- Wash your hands to make sure they are clean before you collect the urine.
- If the collection cup has a lid, remove it carefully. Set it down with the inner surface up. Do not touch the inside of the cup with your fingers.
- Clean the area around your genitals.
- For men: Pull back the foreskin, if you have one. Clean the head of the penis thoroughly. Use medicated towelettes, wipes, or swabs.
- For women: Spread open the folds of skin around the vagina with one hand. Then use your other hand to clean the area around the vagina and urethra thoroughly. Use medicated towelettes or swabs. Wipe the area from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
- Start to urinate into the toilet or urinal. Women should keep holding apart the folds of skin around the vagina while they urinate.
- After the urine has flowed for several seconds, place the collection cup into the stream. Collect about 2 fl oz (60 mL) of this "midstream" urine without stopping the flow.
- Do not touch the rim of the cup to your genital area. And don't get toilet paper, pubic hair, stool (feces), menstrual blood, or other foreign matter in the urine sample.
Test the urine sample by following the directions included in the test kit package.
How It Feels
Collecting a urine sample is not painful.
Collecting a urine sample does not cause problems. If you keep having symptoms, or if your home test is positive and you don't follow up with your doctor, you may have a higher chance of problems from a urinary tract infection (UTI)
Dipstick test kits are used to check for urinary tract infections (UTIs) at home. Results are ready right away.
Nitrite dipstick test:
No nitrite is found in the urine. Normal results are called negative.
Leukocyte dipstick test:
No white blood cells (leukocytes) are found in the urine. Normal results are called negative.
Nitrite dipstick test:
Nitrite is found in the urine. These results are called positive.
Leukocyte dipstick test:
White blood cells (leukocytes) are found in the urine. These results are called positive.
Call your doctor if the test result is positive.
What Affects the Test
You may not be able to have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if:
- You did not collect the urine sample at least 4 hours after your last urination.
What To Think About
- A home test for a urinary tract infection (UTI) should be done under the direction of your doctor. This is so abnormal test results caused by a problem other than a UTI will not be missed. Although a home test kit may find that you have a UTI, it can't tell you where the infection is located. The infection may be in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra, or, in men, in the prostate gland. More tests may be needed to find the location and cause.
- Positive test results don't always mean that you have an infection. If you have a positive test result, be sure to talk to your doctor.
- Home test kits are not 100% accurate. If you still have symptoms of a UTI even though the test results show that you don't have an infection (negative result), tell your doctor. Painful urination can be caused by other problems, such as a vaginal yeast infection or sexually transmitted infection. Frequent UTIs can be a symptom of a serious problem, such as kidney stones, a tumor, or infection of the prostate gland. Do not use a home test as a substitute for regular medical checkups.
- Some doctors may order another UTI test through a lab before they will prescribe antibiotics to treat an infection found using a home test kit.
- Do not use medicine left over from treating another infection to treat a new UTI. And if your doctor gives you antibiotics for a UTI, be sure to take all of the medicine in your prescription. Take it all, even if your symptoms go away before it is gone. A UTI can come back or get worse if you do not take the full course of antibiotics.
- Many types of home test kits can be ordered over the Internet. Just search for the type of test or the name of the manufacturer.
- Some home test kits may come with cranberry or blueberry capsules or other medicine for use after the test. Any medicines that are included in your kit are not a substitute for follow-up with your doctor.
Other Works Consulted
- Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Avery L. Seifert, MD, FACS - Urology