A urinary tract infection (UTI) can occur in any part of the urinary system. Urine travels from the kidney to the ureters to the bladder to the urethra and out. The whole urinary system is actually free of bacteria. Infections occur when bacteria from the skin or the genital areas enter the urethra and travel up the urinary tract.
How do you know if your child has a urinary tract infection? It is harder to figure out in infants who may just have non-specific signs of fever, irritability, or malodorous urine. If your baby looks sick to you and you can't figure out why, visit your pediatrician. In older children there are certain clues that they may have a UTI.
Signs of UTI:
A change in how often they urinate -- Children will either go to the bathroom more often due to their bladder being irritated, or they will try to hold their urine since it will hurt to urinate.
Complaints about painful urination.
Abdominal / pelvic pain -- Inflammation of the bladder (cystitis) can cause children to complain of pelvic pains more than urinary pains.
Vomiting -- In some cases, a urinary infection that affects the kidneys (pyelonephritis) is severe enough to cause children to throw up.
Incontinence -- Children that are toilet trained may suddenly have accidents as the infection and inflammation decreases their ability to control their bladder.
What to do if you suspect UTI: Your doctor will need a urine sample to confirm the diagnosis. How is the urine collected?
1. If your child is not toilet trained, your doctor may either:
insert a catheter (a tiny plastic tube) into your child's urethra to collect a sample.
insert a needle into your child's abdomen / pelvic area
2. If your child is toilet trained, you can collect a "clean catch urine" specimen. If you do this at home, make sure you put the urine in the fridge or bring it to a lab immediately as letting it stand at room temperature can falsely let bacteria grow. This consists of:
having a sterile container.
cleaning your child's genital area with an antibacterial wipe.
catching your child's urine midstream.
Once your doctor has a diagnosis of a UTI your child is quite easily treated with antibiotics.
About the author:
Rosanne Sugay, M.D., is an Internist and Pediatrician at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
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Photography by Alfred Mendoza
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