A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that impacts different parts of your child’s urinary tract and left untreated can cause damage to your child’s kidneys.
Causes of UTIs
UTIs are caused by bacteria that travel up your child’s urethra and enter the bladder. The urethra is usually protected but it can become irritated and foster bacteria growth.
Bubble bath, shampoo and feces are common irritants that can result in the development of a UTI. Although it is rare, a UTI can develop if children cannot completely empty their bladders because of a blockage in their urinary tracts.
Symptoms of UTIs
Common UTI symptoms include:
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Painful urination
- Stomachache, especially in the lower abdomen
- Strong or foul smelling urine
In addition to these symptoms, if your child has a fever, vomiting and back pain, or if your child can only pass a small amount of urine, contact your pediatrician right away.
Treating Your Child's UTI
Your child will be prescribed antibiotics to kill the bacteria that is causing the UTI. It is very important that you know what dosage to give your child and how often, especially if the medicine is liquid.
If the antibiotic is liquid, be sure to store it in the refrigerator and measure carefully before giving each dose. You will need to talk to your child’s caregivers and school about the antibiotic schedule to make sure no doses are skipped.
Encouraging your child to drink extra fluids will also help clear the UTI. If your child has a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit or has painful urination, you can also give your child over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms.
Your child should start to feel relief from symptoms within a day of starting the antibiotic treatment plan, but if your child still has a fever or painful urination 24 hours after starting antibiotics, call your pediatrician.
Even if your child starts to feel better, the medication should continue to be taken until it is finished. You may need to call your pediatrician’s office to find out the results of any urine cultures taken and schedule a follow-up appointment to have another culture taken—there's a 50 percent chance a second UTI will develop after treating the initial UTI.
Preventing UTIs in Children
Ideally, prevention is the best way to treat your child’s UTI. Although UTIs cannot always be avoided, there are many things you can do to help your child reduce the risk for developing an infection.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and other fluids every day to keep urine light-colored.
- Encourage your child to try to urinate at least once every three to four hours during the day and not “hold it.”
- Have your child wear loose cotton underpants during the day.
- Try not to let your child become constipated.
- If you have a daughter, teach her to wipe from front to back after using the bathroom, especially after a bowel movement.
- Wash—and teach your child to wash—the genital area with water only, not soap.
- If you give your child baths, keep bath time to less than 15 minutes and do not use bubble bath, soaps or shampoo in the water. When your child reaches puberty, bubble baths may no longer be an irritant.
- Encourage your child to urinate after taking a bath.