Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections (UTI) occur when bacteria enters the urethra and travels up the urinary tract, causing pain and discomfort. Urine contains salts and waste products, but it doesn’t normally contain bacteria. When bacteria get into the bladder or kidney and multiply in the urine, a UTI can result.
It’s common for children to get a UTI for two reasons. The bacteria that causes the infection comes into the urinary tract via the stools from the large intestine. Children in diapers are therefore at risk for a UTI. Also, children often fail to wipe properly after using the toilet, and bacteria is able to enter the urethra. In other cases, a UTI may result when the bladder is not completely emptied. Children frequently “hold it” to avoid interrupting other activities, causing bacteria to build up in the urine. Uncircumcised males are also more at risk of developing a UTI as well.
Any child can get a UTI, even a newborn, so it’s important to be aware of what to watch for in your child. In infants and very young children, common symptoms include:
- Lack of appetite
- Foul-smelling urine
- Crying or pain during urination
- Vomiting or diarrhea
Older children commonly display these symptoms when a UTI is present:
- Pain or burning during urination
- Frequent urge to urinate (with little or no urine passed)
- Abdominal pain
- Red, pink, or cloudy urine
Caught and treated right away, UTIs are normally harmless. If you think your child has a UTI, call to make an appointment right away. Untreated UTIs can lead to, among other complications, kidney infection, which can lead to permanent kidney damage and high blood pressure.
UTIs in children are commonly treated with oral antibiotics, but in severe cases, a doctor may direct you to the hospital for antibiotics to be administered intravenously. Whatever prescription your doctor provides, your child must take all of it, even after she is feeling better. Failing to finish a round of antibiotics puts your child at risk of relapse.
- After urination, girls should wipe from front to back with toilet paper.
- After bowel movements, be sure to wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the rectal area to the urethra.
- Avoid holding urine for long periods of time. Girls should avoid using feminine hygiene sprays or douches — these products can irritate the urethra.
- Keep the genital area clean and dry.
- Girls should change their tampons and pads frequently during their periods.
- Avoid taking bubble baths frequently as it can cause irritation of the vaginal area.
- Avoid extended exposure to moisture in the genital area by not wearing nylon underwear or wet swimsuits.
- Drink lots of water each day as it can help keep the bladder active and bacteria free.