Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary tract. The urinary tract consists of organs that make, store and get rid of urine and they include:
- Two kidneys which are responsible for urine production.
- Two ureters; these are tubes which connect the kidneys to the bladder.
- A bladder which stores the urine produced until it is excreted.
- A urethra, this is a tube which empties the urine from the bladder to outside the body.
Girls are at a greater risk of developing a UTI than boys. About 8 in 100 girls would have a urinary tract infection whereas just about 2 in 100 boys would have a urinary tract infection. The reason for this is due to the fact that the female urethra is shorter and closer to the anus. This way it is easier for bacteria to enter the urethra. Uncircumcised males under 1 year old, however, have a slightly higher risk of a UTI.
There are two types of UTI that affect children and they are bladder infections and kidney infections. When there is a bladder infection it is known as cystitis and when there is a kidney infection it is known as pyelonephritis. A kidney infection can lead to more serious complications if left untreated.
What Can Cause Urinary Tract Infection in Children?
Urinary tract infections are usually caused by bacteria. The most common bacteria is Escherichia coli (E. coli) which originates from the intestines. A UTI is caused when this bacteria or other bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra.
Although being a female puts one at risk for a UTI there are other risk factors. They include:
- Poor toilet and hygiene habits
- A structural deformity of blockage of one of the organs of the urinary tract
- An abnormal function of the urinary tract
- Vesicoureteral reflux; a birth defect which results in the abnormal backward flow of urine
- Infrequent urination or delaying urination for long periods
- Tight-fitting clothes for girls
- Using bubbles in baths for girls
- After a bowel movement, wiping from back to front
Symptoms of UTI in Children
A few of the symptoms a child would experience from a urinary tract infection include:
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Blood in urine
- Cloudy urine
- Foul smelling urine
- Pain in the lower pelvis or lower back
- Feeling the need to urinate with minimal urine output
If the infection has gotten to the kidneys, a child may experience:
- High fever
- Flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Side or back pain
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe fatigue
At first, the signs of a urinary tract infections may be overlooked as a child may not be able to properly describe what he/she is feeling. So if your child has a fever without a runny nose or an earache, he/she should be taken to see a doctor
Does UTI Have Any Complications in Children?
An untreated urinary tract infection may lead to a number of complications and a few include:
- Sepsis and this may lead to organ failure and eventually death.
- Kidney abscess
- Kidney failure
- Hydronephrosis which is swelling of the kidneys
Diagnosis of UTI in Children
A child with symptoms of a UTI should be taken to see a doctor. A history would be taken, a thorough physical examination would be done and a few lab investigations which include:
- Full Blood Count
- Urine culture and sensitivity
Treatment of UTI in Children
Based on the severity of the infection, your child may either be hospitalized or treated on an out-patient basis.
- Antibiotics would be given to fight the infection.
- Acetaminophen could be given for both pain and fever.
- The child must be encouraged to drink more fluids.
- If the child is hospitalized, IV fluids would be administered.
How to Prevent UTI in Children
Below are a few ways a urinary tract infection could be prevented in children:
- A child should be properly taught how to safely wipe themselves after a bowel movement; wiping should be done from front to back which reduces the chances of bacteria from the anus getting transferred into the urethra.
- Encourage the child to use the bathroom frequently instead of holding in urine for long times.
- Children should be taught proper hygiene to maintain a clean genital area.
- Diapers should be changed frequently in younger children.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes and underwear for the child especially girls.
- Female children should not be given bubble baths as this would allow bacteria and soap to enter the urethra.
- Children should be encouraged to drink enough fluids.
- Caffeine should also be avoided in children as it can cause bladder irritation.