Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. This can cause problems with urination including increased frequency and burning sensations. While the condition can be frustrating, symptoms will typically subside with proper treatment.…
Urinary tract infections (UTI) in children
What are urinary tract infections in children?
A UTI is usually caused by specific bacteria infecting the bladder or urethra. The most common cause of UTIs in children are Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, which are normally present in poo (faeces). Other bacteria known to cause UTIs include Klebsiella, Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas, Streptococci, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Risk factors for UTIs include:
Signs and symptoms
Younger children often have non-specific symptoms when they have a UTI. These symptoms include fever, vomiting, poor feeding and irritability.
In older children, symptoms may include:
- Frequent and urgent urination;
- Pain or a burning sensation while urinating;
- Abdominal or loin pain;
- Fatigue, and;
- Blood in the urine.
Infection may spread to the blood, causing the child to become very unwell. Symptoms of this include fever, extreme lethargy, pale skin and cold hands and feet.
Methods for diagnosis
Urine culture is the gold standard for diagnosing UTIs. A diagnosis is usually made on the basis of urine culture results and the presence of symptoms. Since this test can take a few days to produce results, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic treatment before the test results are in.
Your doctor may also perform a rapid test (known as a dipstick urine test) to check whether there are any features of a urinary tract infection. This test is often used only to support suspicion of a urinary tract infection, and it cannot be entirely relied upon for a diagnosis.
In infants and some young children, it can be difficult to obtain an uncontaminated specimen of urine. A clean bag may be attached over the genitals to help capture the urine. Or alternatively, your doctor may suggest inserting a small plastic tube called a catheter into the bladder, or a needle through the lower abdominal wall to draw urine directly from the bladder (suprapubic urine collection).
The most common imaging method used in assessing a UTI is an ultrasound scan of the kidneys, ureters and bladder. It is performed to determine if the urinary system has formed normally. It is recommended for all children under six months of age and any child who has recurrent UTIs.
A test called a 'voiding cystourethrogram' is sometimes performed on children who have multiple UTIs. This is an X-ray that shows the outline of the bladder and urethra. If the X-ray is taken while the child is peeing, it can show if urine is travelling backwards from the bladder to the kidneys (a disorder known as vesicoureteral reflux).
Types of treatment
UTIs in children require prompt treatment with antibiotics to protect the kidneys from damage. It is important to also drink plenty of water during a urinary tract infection.
In some cases children will need to be hospitalised and given antibiotics and fluids intravenously. Children with repeat infections or vesicoureteral reflux may receive preventative antibiotic treatment.
UTI complications are rare if the infection is treated in time. However, if left untreated, UTIs can cause a serious kidney infection or sepsis. These complications are more likely in recurrent infections.
With treatment the UTI is cleared and, most of the time, repeat infections are prevented. Symptoms are usually gone 1-2 days after treatment starts, but the full course of antibiotics should be continued until finished, even after symptoms have disappeared.
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FAQ Frequently asked questions
What are urinary tract infections in children?
A urinary tract infection is an infection anywhere in the urinary tract. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
What are the symptoms of urinary tract infections in children?
Younger children often have non-specific symptoms when they have a urinary tract infection. These symptoms can include fever, vomiting, poor feeding and irritability. In older children, symptoms may include frequent, urgent and …
What causes urinary tract infections in children?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children are usually caused by E. coli bacteria, which are normally present in poo (faeces). Other bacteria known to cause UTIs include Klebsiella, Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas, Streptococci, and …
How are urinary tract infections in children diagnosed?
Urinary tract infections are typically diagnosed by culturing a urine sample to identify the type of bacteria present. Because the test's results can take a few days to produce, an antibiotic treatment is often started before the …
How are urinary tract infections in children treated?
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics.
Will urinary tract infections in children clear up on their own?
Urinary tract infections do not clear up without antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics are necessary to reduce the risk of kidney infection.
Will urinary tract infections in children keep returning?
Relapse of infections can occur if the full course of the antibiotics is not completed. It is common to experience repeat infections later on.
What is the outlook for urinary tract infections in children?
With timely treatment, the outlook for urinary tract infections in children is usually good, as the infection is cleared by antibiotics and the risk of long-term damage is reduced. In cases of delayed treatment, or frequent …