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Can children get UTIs?

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Think urinary tract infections (UTIs) only affect women and older adults? It may surprise you to learn that as many as 3 percent of girls and 1 percent of boys experience a UTI by age 11, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. At SIU Medicine, our pediatric medical providers are committed to supporting parents by helping them learn about pediatric UTIs and other possible health conditions that can affect their young sons and daughters.

Causes of pediatric UTIs

A child may develop a UTI if bacteria gets into the urethra (where urine comes out of the body) and travels up toward the bladder, causing infection. These microorganisms, especially E. coli, are usually from the digestive tract. This is one of the reasons why good hygiene is so important and why parents should wipe their young daughters (or teach their daughters to wipe themselves) from front to back.

Pediatric UTIs may also be caused by factors such as congenital anomalies in the urinary system, waiting too long to urinate (preventing urine from washing away bacteria), being dehydrated and not urinating enough, and constipation. Some conditions, like vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) and hydronephrosis, are closely related to UTIs and may need to be evaluated by a physician.

Signs and symptoms of a pediatric urinary tract infection

It’s difficult to diagnose a pediatric UTI based on signs and symptoms alone, since children may present differently and many of these signs could also be explained by another health issue. Additional diagnostic steps are usually necessary, including a clinical exam and urine test. However, a pediatric UTI may be reasonably suspected if a child begins to demonstrate any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Pain during urination
  • Increased urge or frequency of urination
  • Straining during urination
  • Dark colored, cloudy, bloody and/or foul-smelling urine
  • New accidents in underwear or in bed, despite already being toilet trained
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain in the abdomen, side or lower back

If a child has a fever along with these symptoms of a UTI, this indicates that bacteria has traveled beyond the bladder and up to the kidneys. This type of UTI is considered more severe and can potentially lead to permanent kidney damage if left untreated, so early diagnosis and intervention is essential.

How our SIU Medical providers can help your child with UTIs

Led by pediatric urologist Dr. Ranjiv Mathews, MD, and Pediatric Urologic Nurse Practitioner Susan Nelson, our medical team at SIU Medicine is eager to help parents and their children manage these conditions. We encourage anyone who is concerned about UTI symptoms in their children to come in for a consultation. Determining the underlying cause of a child’s UTI and ruling out any other conditions is important for initiating the correct treatment, which may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Other medications to reduce additional complications, like pain and fever
  • Lifestyle guidance, including tips on improving hygiene and promoting adequate hydration

The good news is many children who get a UTI won’t get another one. But establishing a relationship with a trusted urologist may be necessary to help children who experience recurring UTIs or struggle with other urinary complications, such as incomplete emptying and retention.

Are you concerned about your child’s genitourinary health?

Call SIU Medicine at 217-545-8000 to schedule an appointment with SIU pediatric urology, or to get your questions answered confidentially with the help of our friendly staff members.

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