Urinary Tract Infections in Children: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Overview

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria get into your urine and travel up to your bladder. A UTI in children is a fairly common condition that happens when bacteria (germs) get into the bladder or kidneys.

Recurrent UTIs in children may be indicative of malformation or malfunction of the urinary tract. Up to 8% of girls and 2% of boys will get a UTI by age 5. Young children have a greater risk of kidney damage linked to UTI than older children or adults.

Sometimes the symptoms of this infection can be hard to spot in kids. With the right treatment, your child should start to feel better in just a few days.

Causes

UTIs are most commonly caused by bacteria, which may enter the urinary tract from the skin around the anus or vagina. The most common cause of UTIs is E. coli, which originates in the intestines. Bacteria cause the large majority of urinary tract infections in children. Most UTIs are caused when this type of bacteria or other bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra.

Two common abnormalities are:

  • Vesicoureteral Reflux

It refers to an abnormal backward flow of urine from the bladder up to the ureters and toward the kidneys. Children with a problem called reflux (vesicoureteral reflux or VUR) are more likely to have infections.

  • Urinary Obstruction

It refers to a structural or functional abnormality in the urinary tract (like a urinary obstruction).

Symptoms

A child with a UTI may have a fever, throw up, or be fussy. Older kids may have a fever, have pain when peeing, need to pee a lot, or have lower belly pain.

Common symptoms and signs of UTIs in children include pain and urgency with urination, blood in the urine, abdominal/pelvic pain, fever, flank pain, and vomiting.

Diagnosis

The only way to diagnose a UTI in a child is to carry out a urine test.

  • Collection of a urine sample

The method your health care provider uses will depend on your child’s age and maturity. For a toddler who is not toilet-trained, a plastic bag is attached to his or her skin to collect the sample. For an older child, his or her parents may be asked to help catch the sample during urination. Your doctor may help to insert a catheter through the child’s urethra and into the bladder to collect urine.

  • Examination of the urine sample

If there is an infection, the sample may be used for urinalysis, and urine culture. Your doctors may be able to see bacteria and pus (white blood cells) under microscopes.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics

Taking antibiotics kills the germs and helps kids get well again. To be sure antibiotics work, you must give all the prescribed doses.

  • Additional tests

If your child has repeated infections, your doctor may need to perform further tests such as ultrasound or bladder X-rays to look for these conditions and to determine the most effective treatment.

  • Hospitalization

If symptoms get worse or do not get better within 3 days, it would be better to send your child to the hospital.


Keywords: urinary tract infections in children.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.