UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) in Children
Urinary tract infection in children at a glance
- A urinary tract infection (UTI), which is common among children, occurs when bacteria (usually from the anus) causes an infection in the urinary tract.
- About 8 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys will have a UTI by the time they are 5 years old.
- Urinary tract infections can be easily treated with antibiotics and do not cause lasting damage as long as they are treated promptly.
- Children with recurring UTIs should see a doctor to evaluate for more serious issues, such as sepsis, a life-threatening elevation of infection.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract system, which is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra and in males, the prostate. The urinary tract system is responsible for the production and storage of urine, one of the body’s liquid waste products.
UTIs are fairly common in children. About 8 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys will have a UTI by the time they are 5 years old.
A UTI is caused when bacteria enter the urinary tract. Bacteria inside the large intestines can be in the child’s stool and enter the urethra, which carries urine out of the body. Bacteria in the urethra may enter the kidneys and bladder.
UTIs are not contagious and are highly treatable. Undiagnosed or untreated UTIs may lead to kidney damage, especially in children 6 years old or younger.
Treating UTIs in children
A urinalysis is performed to confirm the presence and type of bacteria in the urine. This will help the doctor prescribe the most effective antibiotic for the child’s infection. Oral antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the infection. It is important that the parent give the child the full prescription in order to ensure that the bacteria do not return.
Which children are at risk for contracting a UTI?
Girls are more susceptible to contracting a UTI because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus, where bacteria spread from the large intestines via stool.
Certain individuals, girls especially, are susceptible to contracting UTIs just like some people are more prone to catching a cough or cold.
Uncircumcised male infants are at a slightly higher risk for contracting a UTI due to the possible accumulation of bacteria in the folds around the opening of the penis.
Other risk factors for contracting a UTI are:
- A structural abnormality in the urinary tract system
- Vesicoureteralreflux (VUR), the backward flow of urine from the bladder to the kidneys
- Poor bathroom and hygiene habits
- Family history of UTI
- Certain soaps or bubble baths.
What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI in children?
Among children older than infants, common symptoms include:
- Burning or stinging sensation while urinating
- Increased urge to urinate
- Frequent urination with small amount of urine produced
- Lower back or abdominal pain
- Foul smelling urine that may be cloudy or bloody
- Needing to go to the bathroom during the night
- Abnormal bedwetting problems.
In infants, the only sign of a UTI may be a persistent fever and fussiness.
Can a urinary tract infection in children be prevented?
UTIs are preventable in most cases. Some methods to avoid urinary tract infections in children include:
- For young children and infants, frequent diaper changes (every two hours or as necessary)
- Teaching good bathroom hygiene when toilet training
- Girls should always wipe from front to back to avoid transferring bacteria from the anus to the urethra.
- Do not teach children to “hold it.” As soon as the child feels the need to void urine, he or she should do so. Bacteria grow easily in urine kept in the bladder.
- Girls older than 5 should avoid bubble baths and soaps that could cause irritation, usually evidenced by redness or a rash.
- Wearing cotton underwear is better than nylon or other materials.
- Make sure children drink plenty of fluids daily; ideally water (five 8oz glasses for 5-8 year olds, seven glasses for 9-12 year olds and eight-ten glasses for children over 13).