Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Urinary tract infections don’t just affect adults. Kids of all ages are also at risk of developing this painful and potentially serious condition. In fact, up to 8% of girls and 2% of boys will develop their first UTI by age 5. It is important to treat a UTI as soon as possible to prevent further complications such as sepsis or a kidney infection. Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of pediatric UTIs.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

UTIs develop when bacteria from the skin or fecal matter gets into the urinary tract and multiplies. The lower part of the urinary tract includes the urethra, ureters, and bladder, but the infection can also spread up into the kidneys, becoming more serious.

Urinary Tract Infection

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection

Parents and caregivers can spot a UTI in their child by keeping an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Painful urination
  • Burning or itching
  • Frequent urination
  • Holding in urine
  • Increased bedwetting or accidents
  • Pain in the lower stomach, back, or side
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fussiness
  • Loss of appetite

A UTI diagnosis is usually confirmed via physical examination, patient symptom history, and a urine sample.

Causes of Urinary Tract Infection

A urinary tract infection develops when unwanted bacteria enters the urinary tract. UTIs are more common in girls, although some evidence suggests that uncircumcised boys under age one are also at higher risk. Other risk factors include any deformity or blockage of the urinary tract, poor hygiene habits, and a family history of UTIs.

UTIs can be prevented with frequent diaper changes, proper toilet training habits, and good hygiene— as well as avoiding strong soaps and bubble baths. Girls should be taught to wipe from front to back, and kids should be encouraged to use the bathroom as soon as they feel the urge to go, as holding in urine can increase the risk of developing an infection. Ensuring proper hydration and avoiding constipation will also help your kids avoid developing UTIs. Lastly, wearing cotton underwear is best to promote proper airflow and prevent bacteria growth.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection

It is important to treat a suspected UTI right away, since untreated UTIs can lead to kidney damage. Treatment typically involves oral antibiotics to treat the infection and possibly a numbing medication to prevent pain.

Be sure to give antibiotics exactly as prescribed and finish out the medication on schedule, even if symptoms improve. In addition, make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. Most urinary tract infections should clear up in about a week with proper treatment.

Kids who have developed a more severe infection may need to receive IV antibiotics in the hospital. This is typically done in cases where the child has a high fever, is severely dehydrated, or can’t stop vomiting, is at risk of developing a kidney infection, is younger than six months old, or if the infection has turned septic (reached the bloodstream).

Contact a child’s medical professional if you have any questions about UTIs and how to treat them.

If you suspect that your child may be exhibiting signs of a urinary tract infection, it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment to prevent the infection from worsening. Contact us today for a visit with one of our knowledgeable, board-certified pediatricians.