You may not think of urinary tract infections as much of a problem in children, but the government says about 3 percent of girls and 1 percent of boys have one by the time they are 11. Bladder infections, called cystitis, are the most common form of UTI in both children and adults.
Cystitis itself is not particularly dangerous in adults, when treated promptly. In children though, it is a more risky business. Cystitis can lead to scarring of the kidneys and other kidney damage that can cause kidney disease and related disorders later on in life. For this reason, children who get UTIs sometimes require additional tests after the infection clears up.
If you suspect your child has a urinary infection, call your doctor right away.
What Causes Urinary Infections?
Infections occur when bacteria enter the normally sterile urinary tract. It is not always known exactly why children develop UTIs, but there are a number of factors, such as bubble baths or improper hygiene, that may aid and abet the bacterial migration up the urethra. Some children’s urinary tracts are anatomically different, making them more prone to infection.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms can be nonspecific enough that parents may not realize their child has cystitis. This is particularly true in infants who may display no symptoms at all, and in toddlers, who may have a fever, but are unable to describe other complaints. Older children are more likely to have more definitive signs of cystitis, such as frequent or painful urination, fever and pain in the abdomen or pelvic area. Other signs of a UTI include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine and malodorous urine.
- You may help prevent UTIs in your child by following these practices:
- Change diapers immediately after bowel movements and clean the area thoroughly.
- Teach girls to wipe themselves front to back after urinating or defecating.
- The chemicals in bubble bath, soap and shampoos can irritate the opening of the urethra, making it easier for the bacteria to move in. Many experts advise skipping bubble baths for young children altogether. Fill the tub with plain water and use the soap and shampoo at the very end. Children who have frequent UTIs should probably take showers.
- Avoid tight-fitting pants and underwear.
- Teach your child to “go” as soon as she feels the urge. Some children get so wrapped up in play that they try to “hold it.”