Toddlers and UTIs

Detecting Urinary Tract Infection or UTI in toddlers is trickier than it is to diagnose one in adults because toddlers can’t always describe the symptoms they’re feeling. This means it’s especially important to know what UTIs are, and what they feel like, because the UTI is one of the most common childhood infections, along with ear infections and pneumonia.

In fact, any child who has a high fever and no other symptoms has a one-in-twenty chance of having a UTI, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Girls get UTIs more often than boys because of their shorter urethras. About 8% of girls will have at least one UTI before they reach the age of 8.

What is a UTI?

Urinary tract infections are caused by a bacterium or a group of bacteria that invades the areas where the urine forms and goes through. Normally, the urinary tract is free of bacteria, and when bacteria enters the opening of the urethra, it can cause infection.

UTIs can be caused by a few different things:

  • Back-to-front wiping after using the toilet
  • Holding pee for a long time
  • Not fully emptying the bladder when urinating
  • Frequent UTIs can be caused by a problem in the urinary tract such as a blockage in the tubes where the urine passes

Signs and symptoms of UTI in toddlers include:

  • Fever
  • Crankiness or irritability
  • Refusal to eat
  • Grimacing or crying while holding the bladder area or the area below the belly button
  • Frequent peeing when only a small amount of urine comes out each time
  • Sudden or unexpected bedwetting
  • Blood-tinged (pinkish) or cloudy pee

What you can do to prevent UTI

If your child is still wearing diapers, you can help to prevent UTIs by changing them often. Wet diapers are a breeding ground for bacteria, and can easily cause UTI in toddlers.

Potty-trained kids should be taught early on about how to wipe properly, especially girls. Wiping from front to back, throwing out the used tissue, and then doing it again will help to keep bacteria from growing and spreading.

Because of their active, inquisitive lives, it’s common for toddlers to hold their pee for a long time in order to play or explore something new. You can help make sure Baby doesn’t hold it too long by asking them if they need to pee from time to time, or bring them to the toilet every couple of hours.

Bubble baths are also known to cause UTIs, so it is best avoid them. If you do offer the occasional bubble bath, don’t let your child stay in the tub for too long. And for children who are very sensitive to the type of fabric used in underwear, making sure you’re dressing them in light, breathable cotton underpants will help to ensure that UTIs stay away.

UTI treatment

Seeking medical help early is important because bacteria from a UTI can travel to the kidneys and cause permanent damage. If you suspect that your child may have a UTI, it’s important to get them checked out by a pediatrician.

At the doctor’s office, a urine test will show whether bacteria or blood is present in your child’s pee. If the UTI is recurrent, your doctor may suggest a urine culture in order to find out the specific type of bacteria that’s causing the infection. This will be useful when prescribing the type of antibiotic that will correctly target the bacteria.

Urinary tract infections can be easily cured, especially at the onset. Especially in young children, it’s always a good idea to go to a doctor when it comes to curing UTIs.

  • “Detecting Urinary Tract Infections.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved November 2 2017.
  • “Diagnosis and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection in Children.” American Family Physician. 83(4):409-415. February 2011. Retrieved November 2 2017.
  • Giovanni Montini, Kjell Tulus, Ian Hewitt. “Febrile Urinary Tract Infection in Children.” New England Journal of Medicine. 365: 239-250. July 21 2011. Retrieved November 2 2017. 
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