Urinary Tract Infections

Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go RIGHT NOW!  

Urinary symptoms in kids can be concerning to parents. Many of these symptoms can be characteristic of UTIs. It’s important to identify these symptoms, so a child can be appropriately diagnosed and treated.   Urinary tract infections (also known as UTIs), which are caused by bacteria that affect part of the urinary tract, are somewhat common in kids, and are much more common in girls than boys.

The urinary tract is made up of the urethra, the bladder, the ureters, and the kidneys. UTIs affecting the bladder and urethra (the lower urinary tract), known as cystitis, are the most common. UTIs may also spread to the ureters and kidneys, which is a more serious infection; this is known as pyelonephritis.  The most common bacteria is E. Coli which can easily be spread from the anus to the urethra — typically from poor wiping habits.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include painful (usually burning) urination, urinating more frequently, and also having an extreme urge to go. Kids who have been previously potty trained may start to have accidents and wet themselves. The urine may appear very cloudy or have blood in it, causing it to appear pinkish, or the color of iced tea or Coca Cola. In very young children, fever or irritability may be the only clue. High fevers with shaking chills, vomiting, and back pain can indicate that the infection is in the kidneys.

Who’s at Risk?

Girls are more at risk than boys. Kids who have certain structural or functional abnormalities of the urinary tract are certainly at risk. Kids with poor toilet hygiene, and girls who wipe back to front, are at increased risk, as are kids who tend to hold their urine for a long time. It’s important to encourage proper wiping techniques and good hygiene, and to remind kids to empty their bladder and not “hold it” for long periods of time. Avoiding bubble baths can also help prevent UTIs, because they can be irritating to the urethra.

Diagnosis

If we suspect a UTI, we’lll take the proper steps to diagnose your child, which will typically include getting a good history of your child’s symptoms, performing a thorough examination, and getting a urine sample. If your child is diagnosed with a UTI, antibiotics are the treatment of choice. If it appears your child has a kidney infection, the work up and treatment can be more in depth.

If your child should develop any of these symptoms, it is important to give us a call in the office.

Alyssa Papa, a certified Physician Assistant, joined Kids Plus in June 2012.