Urinary tract infections (UTI's) in children are common and cause various symptoms. Nearly 1 in 20 boys and more than 1 in 10 girls have at least one urinary tract infection by the time they are 16 years old.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of the urinary system. Bacteria can lie around the anus after passing stool and can subsequently gain entry into the urinary system, multiplying and causing urinary infections. The infection is mostly limited to the bladder but may travel higher to the kidneys.
What increases the risk of developing a UTI?
- Constipation. Large, hard stools can press on the bladder and prevent it from emptying fully.
- Dysfunctional elimination syndrome. Children may repeatedly 'hold on' to urine and/or faeces, thus increasing the risk of developing urinary infections.
- Urinary tract abnormalities. Vesico-ureteric reflux is a problem which occurs when the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidneys down to the bladder) has a weakness where it enters bladder. As a result, when urine enters the bladder from the ureter, urine can be passed backwards up the ureter, towards the kidneys instead of downwards into the lower urinary system, away from the kidneys.
- Neurological or spinal cord disorders
- Other conditions such as diabetes.
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting
- Off form, off feeds and generally unwell
- Blood in urine (rare)
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Cloudy or smelly urine
- Pain on passing urine or passing urine more frequently
- Bed-wetting in a previously dry child
- If the kidney becomes infected children may have shivers and complain of abdominal or back pain
How is a UTI confirmed?
A urine sample is needed in order to confirm the diagnosis, which can be caught in a specimen bottle whilst urine is in full flow. Plastic urinary bags can be used to collect urine from babies. If there is a delay in getting the urine to your doctor, the sample may be stored in the fridge.
Antibiotics should clear the infection. Fluids help to prevent dehydration and paracetamol helps to ease pain and fever.
A urinary infection is normally a once-off event. However, some children may have more than one infection. Severe or repeated infections can cause permanent kidney damage leading to kidney problems or high blood pressure in later life. Tests are advised in some cases to check the kidneys and/or bladder, usually in children under the age of 5 years.
General tips following UTIs
- Prevent constipation
- Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids to help 'flush out the bladder'
- Always see your doctor if you suspect that your child develops a urinary infection.