Urinary tract organs make, store, and get rid of urine. Kidneys make urine which then flows in tubes called ureters to the bladder. From the bladder, urine leaves the body through the urethra. Urinary tract infections (UTls), the most frequent bacterial infections in childhood, affect any part of this tract. Cystitis is infection of the lower part (bladder). Pyelonephritis is infection of the upper part.
In very young babies, more boys (uncircumcised) have UTls. In older children, more girls than boys get them. Children who get UTls may have abnormal urinary tracts.
The most common cause is a bacteria named Escherichia coli, which lives in the intestines. Staphylococcus bacteria are common causes in teen girls. Bacteria on the skin or near the anus can get into the urinary tract. Bacteria can also get in from catheters (tubes) used during medical treatment.
Children who delay bathroom visits are more likely to get UTls. Higher risks also involve not emptying the bladder completely, constipation, improper wiping methods, and sexual activity. Certain antibiotics and abnormalities such as vesicoureteral reflux (reflux of urine from the bladder back into the ureters) can cause UTls.
- Fever (especially in babies and children younger than 2).
- Poor feeding.
- Failure to thrive.
Older children have symptoms similar to those of adults, including:
- Pain and tenderness in the abdomen (belly).
- Need to urinate often.
- Painful urination.
- Not control of urine flow (incontinence).
- Producing only a few drops of urine at a time.
- Bloody urine.
- Some children have few or no symptoms.
- Fever and low back pain may mean infected kidneys, a serious concern.
Your healthcare provider uses a physical examination and urine tests. Urinalysis is the quick test done first, and then urine is cultured. By cultures, doctors see which bacteria grow in the laboratory and can pick the best treatment. Doctors get urine samples by using different methods, depending on the child's age. Imaging tests, done in special cases, look for abnormalities.
- Certain children, such as very young babies and seriously ill children, get treatment in hospitals. Others are given oral antibiotics as outpatients.
- Medicine and sitz baths may be offered for pain.
- Drinking more fluids (especially cranberry and prune juice) may help flush out the urinary tract. Surgery may be needed for abnormalities.
- Exercises to strengthen and train the bladder may help prevention.
- Encourage regular trips to the bathroom
- Encourage drinking lots of water and concentrated cranberry juice to help prevent and get rid of UTls.
- Teach good hygiene. Girls should wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Showers may be better than baths. Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight clothing may also help.
- Make sure that your child takes antibiotics until all the pills or liquid are gone. Stopping sooner because symptoms are gone can make antibiotics less effective later.
- Do not offer your child caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid using too many antibiotics, which can make it harder to treat UTls.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.