Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in children. The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters (tubes that move urine from kidney to the bladder), bladder, and urethra (a tube connects the bladder to the genitals). An infection can happen anywhere along this tract, but they are most common in the kidneys and bladder. An infection of the bladder is called cystitis, while an infection involving the kidney is called pyelonephritis, or “pyelo”.
Most UTIs are caused by a bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli), but there are also other bacteria that can sometimes cause a UTI.
Are some children at higher risk for urinary tract infections?
UTIs are more common in girls than in boys. A girls’ urethra is short so bacteria can easily get into the bladder. Children with a urinary track system that is abnormal and doesn’t work well are also more at risk for a UTI. However, this is very rare.
How do I know if my child has a urinary tract infection?
Young infants and children who have a UTI may be irritable or have a fever for no apparent reason.
Older children might also:
feel pain or a burning sensation when peeing,
feel a strong urge to pee or need to pee more often than usual, or start having small accidents well after toilet learning is complete,
have a fever,
feel pain in the lower back or pain in the belly just below the navel,
have foul-smelling urine that can look cloudy or have a little blood.
How will my doctor test for a urinary tract infection?
To diagnose a UTI, your doctor will need a urine sample. How you provide the sample will depend on your child’s age:
If you have an infant, a doctor or nurse will probably use a catheter (small tube inserted into the urethra) so urine can be collected in a sterile bag for testing. This is the best way to test for a UTI.
If your child is toilet-trained, he will need to provide a mid-stream urine sample in a sterile cup or jar. “Mid-stream” means that the child pees a bit and then you collect the urine.
How is a urinary tract infection treated?
UTIs are treated with antibiotics. If your child is younger than 2 years and has a UTI, your doctor may do additional tests to be sure your child’s urinary tract is working properly.