Spotting a UTI in Children
A urinary tract infection is fairly simple to spot when you’re an adult; the symptoms tend to be painful, such as a burning sensation during urination and pressure in the abdomen or groin. Similarly, it’s easy to communicate those symptoms to your healthcare provider.
Identifying a urinary tract infection — and knowing when to take action – is far more difficult when the patient is a child, especially when the child cannot speak for themselves.
UTIs are among the most common infections regardless of age, and children – especially very young children – are no exception. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 3 in 100 children develop a UTI each year. In fact, serious infections caused by UTIs are more likely to occur in children under 2 years old, and the lack of communication can contribute to this fact. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for a parent to spot a UTI in very young children; sometimes a fever may be the only sign. Other possible symptoms include:
- Poor appetite
- Low weight gain
- Unusual-smelling or cloudy urine
- Increased urine frequency
That’s why it’s important to see a healthcare provider, even if the symptoms are vague, and request a urine test.
For children over 2 years old, the symptoms are similar but may also include uncommon bed wetting or abdominal pain. Older children may be able to better communicate where they’re experiencing pain, but don’t rely on that as the only indication.
If your child is experiencing the symptoms or has a fever without a clear cause, the NIH recommends seeing a healthcare professional within 24 hours.
Confirmation is typically obtained by a healthcare professional performing a urine test, though other tests may be necessary to ensure that your child’s urinary tract is okay.
Preventing UTIs can be difficult, especially in children who are not yet potty trained. Dirty diapers, if left unchanged for long periods of time, can grow bacteria. This is especially harmful to girls, as their urethras are shorter and closer to the anus, increasing the risk of bacteria from bowel movements. Likewise, it’s important when changing diapers to wipe from front to back to avoid bacteria from the anus coming into contact with the urethra.
Hydration is an effective way to prevent an infection. It should go without saying, but make sure your child is hydrated. And if you are potty training, it’s important to make sure your child is urinating each time they need to and not holding any urine in, as urine can flow back into the kidney, causing infection.
Diet has also been cited as playing a role in prevention. Cranberry juice, in particular, has been suggested as an effective preventative, though there is not enough evidence to be certain. The NIH also notes that cranberry juice is not an effective treatment for an infection.
Hydration, however, is an effective way to prevent an infection. It should go without saying, but make sure your child is hydrated. And if you are potty training, it’s important to make sure your child is urinating each time they need to and not holding any urine in, causing infection.
Treatments for UTIs generally include antibiotics, though this can vary depending on the nature of the infection. Most important is diagnosing an infection and understanding the severity before it gets worse. Fortunately, PIC offers urinalysis for diagnosis as well as swift and effective treatment without the waiting time another healthcare provider may require.