A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when bacteria (germs) gets into the urinary tract. The most common place for a UTI to occur is in the bladder, but infections also occur in the urethra, ureters or kidneys. UTIs are easily treated but can cause problems if left alone.
- Poor bathroom habits, such as not changing out of wet underwear or not wiping properly.
- Frequent constipation or diarrhoea.
- Having some kind of blockage in the urinary tract that limits or stops urine flow.
- Irritation in the “perineal” area (where urine comes out of the body). This can be caused by things such as bubble baths, bath soap, or tight clothing.
- A condition called vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), in which urine flows backward from the bladder and toward the kidney.
Signs & Symptoms
There are two different kinds of UTIs. The most common is called cystitis. It occurs when the infection is in the urethra or bladder. A child who has cystitis may:
- Have a fever (this may be the only symptom in babies).
- Be fussy (common in babies).
- Vomit (common in babies or older children).
- Have pain or burning with urination (more common in older children).
- Have lower belly or back pain.
- Have blood in the urine.
The less common type of UTI is called pyelonephritis, which is an infection that occurs in the kidneys. Pyelonephritis can sometimes be treated at home, but in some cases, it can become serious and even life-threatening. A child who has pyelonephritis may have:
- A fever greater than 101 degrees.
- Flu-like symptoms such as shaking, chills, nausea, vomiting, or achiness.
- Pain in the belly, back, side, or groin.
- Pain or a burning feeling when urinating so babies cry while urinating.
- Urine that is cloudy, red, foul-smelling, or changes to a dark cola colour.
- Pus or blood in the urine.
- Frequent urination.
- Give your child all the medicine the doctor prescribed for the infection. Do not stop the medicine, even if your child is feeling and acting better.
- Give your child lots of fluids to drink so they continue to urinate regularly, every two to three hours for toilet-trained children.
- Tell your doctor if your child’s fever, pain, or other symptoms continue after taking the medicine for two days.
- If your child is in pain or has a fever, give medicine only as directed by the doctor. Do not give aspirin to children.
- Keep all follow-up appointments.
- Do not allow your child to sit in bathwater that contains bubble bath, shampoo or soap, as this can cause irritation. If your child takes a bath, have them sit in clear water until you’re ready to use these products. Once you are finished, rinse your child off and remove the products from the tub.
The most common treatment for a UTI is antibiotics, which kill the germs that are causing the infection. The paediatrician also may recommend that your child take pain relief medication as needed, and drink plenty of fluids.
UTIs can cause irritation and raw skin on your child’s private parts. If these symptoms do not improve after exposing the skin to air and creating a moisture barrier with petroleum jelly or zinc oxide or lanolin, let your paediatrician know.
What if my child gets frequent UTIs?
Some children get UTIs more often than others. Be sure to tell your paediatrician if symptoms happen again after treatment, or if your child has three or more UTIs in a six-month period.
The paediatrician may recommend taking your child to a paediatric urology practice for an evaluation. Physicians and nurse practitioners in this type of practice specializing in treating children who have problems with their urinary system. These specialists may run additional tests to learn about the cause and recommend a new treatment plan:
- An ultrasound to view the kidneys, bladder, and the tubes connecting them.
- A voiding cystourethrogram or VCUG. This X-ray shows how the bladder is working while the person is urinating.