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Urinary Tract Infection in Children


What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A UTI is caused by bacteria that get inside your child's urinary tract. Most bacteria come out when your child urinates. Bacteria that stay in your child's urinary tract system can cause an infection. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in the kidneys, and it flows from the ureters to the bladder. Urine leaves the bladder through the urethra.

What increases my child's risk for a UTI?

UTIs are more common in girls because the urethra is shorter. This allows bacteria to enter the urinary tract more easily. The following increase your child's risk for a UTI:

  • Wiping from back to front after urinating or having a bowel movement
  • Not urinating frequently
  • Constipation
  • Not being circumcised (boys)

What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI in children younger than 2 years?

  • Fever
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding or slow weight gain
  • Urine that smells bad

What are the signs and symptoms of a UTI in children older than 2 years?

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal, side, or back pain
  • Urine that smells bad
  • Urgent need to urinate or urinating more often than normal
  • Urinating very little, leaking urine, or bedwetting
  • Pain or a burning feeling when urinating

How is a UTI diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's signs and symptoms. The provider may press on your child's stomach, sides, and back to check if he or she feels pain. Your child's urine will be tested for bacteria that may be causing an infection. If your child has UTIs often, he or she may need other tests to help find the cause.

How is a UTI treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat a bacterial infection. Your child may need to get antibiotics through an IV if he or she is very young.

How can I help prevent my child from getting a UTI?

  • Have your child empty his or her bladder often. Make sure your child urinates and empties his or her bladder as soon as needed. Teach your child not to hold urine for long periods of time.
  • Encourage your child to drink more liquids. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best. Your child may need to drink more liquids than usual to help flush out the bacteria. Do not let your child drink caffeine or citrus juices. These can irritate your child's bladder and increase symptoms. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend cranberry juice to help prevent a UTI.
  • Teach your child to wipe from front to back. Your child should wipe from front to back after urinating or having a bowel movement. This will help prevent germs from getting into the urinary tract through the urethra.
  • Treat your child's constipation. This may lower his or her UTI risk. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to treat your child's constipation.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has very strong pain in the abdomen, sides, or back.
  • Your child urinates very little or not at all.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is not getting better after 1 to 2 days of treatment.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.