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Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Children

A urinary tract infection (UTI), typically bacterial, can occur in the urethra, may be present in the bladder (cystitis) or can involve the kidneys (pyelonephritis). Recurring UTIs with fever often come to evaluation by your pediatrician or a pediatric urologist.

How Do I Know If My Child Has a UTI?

Because every child is unique, symptoms of a UTI can be different. Some of the more common symptoms your child may experience are the same as any underlying infection:

Babies to Age One:

  • Fever
  • Colic and irritability
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Poor feeding

Toddlers and Older Children:

  • Urinary urgency and/or frequency
  • New onset bedwetting or daytime accidents (urinary incontinence)
  • Discomfort or pain during urination
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Fever

UTIs are more common in boys who have not been circumcised, or in girls because they have a shorter urethra. Proper hygiene in uncircumcised boys should be discussed with your pediatrician. Also, teaching girls good personal hygiene habits at a young age can also help in the prevention of infection.

Get Evaluated. Get Treated.

If you suspect your child may have a UTI, or if your child gets frequent UTIs, it’s important to see your pediatrician for an evaluation and to get treatment for the infection. In children with recurrent UTIs, your pediatrician may refer your child to a pediatric urologist for further diagnostic testing to rule out abnormalities of the urinary tract.

Diagnosing a UTI

Diagnosis of a UTI is often made based on a positive urine culture. The urine may also be tested for increased white blood cells, which may be present in an underlying infection.

In cases of a child with recurrent UTIs, your doctor may order additional tests including:

  • An ultrasound to check the urinary tract including the bladder and kidneys for any abnormalities that may be causing frequent UTIs
  • Further testing may be based on your child’s symptoms

Treating a UTI

UTIs are typically treated with a course of antibiotics.

Your doctor may also recommend the following preventative measures to help avoid future and recurrent infection including:

  • Teach your child good bathroom habits. For girls, teach them to wipe from front to back. In uncircumcised boys, it’s important to teach proper hygiene.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids (water is best). Cranberry juice may also be good keeping bad bacteria from attaching to the walls of the bladder, which causes infection.
  • Frequent voiding is important. Make sure your child is urinating frequently and not “holding it in.”
  • For babies, make sure diapers are changed as needed.