Facts About Urinary Tract Infections in Children

Urinary Tract Infections in Children

An estimated 3 percent of girls and 1 percent of boys have had a urinary tract infection (UTI) by the age of 11. Some researchers believe these estimates are low because many cases of UTI go undetected. The symptoms are not always obvious to parents, and younger children are usually unable to describe how they feel.

Recognizing and treating urinary tract infections is important. Untreated UTIs can lead to serious kidney problems that could threaten the life of your child...

What Are the Signs of Urinary Tract Infection?

The lining of the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys become irritated with a urinary tract infection, just like the inside of the nose or throat with a cold. If your child is an infant or is only a few years old, the signs of a urinary tract infection may not be clear, since children that young cannot tell you just how they feel. Your child may have a high fever, be irritable, or not eat.,p> On the other hand, sometimes a child may have only a low-grade fever, experience nausea and vomiting, or just not seem healthy. The diaper urine may have an unusual smell. If your child has a high temperature and appears sick for more than a day without signs of a runny nose or other obvious cause for discomfort, he or she may need to be checked for a bladder infection.

An older child with bladder irritation may complain of pain in the abdomen and pelvic area. Your child may urinate often. If the kidney is infected, your child may complain of pain under the side of the rib cage (the flank) or low back pain. Crying or complaining that it hurts to urinate and producing only a few drops of urine at a time are other signs of urinary tract infection. Your child may have difficulty controlling the urine and may leak urine into clothing or bedsheets. The urine may smell unusual or look cloudy.

Do Urinary Tract Infections Have Long-Term Effects?

Young children are at the greatest risk for kidney damage from urinary tract infections, especially if they have some unknown urinary tract abnormality. Such damage includes kidney scars, poor kidney growth, poor kidney function, high blood pressure, and other problems. For this reason it is important that children with urinary tract infections receive prompt treatment...

Excerpt courtesy of Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C. - NIH Publication No. 97-4246

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