There's a whole list of things to love about being a parent, but seeing your child suffer isn't one of them. Urinary tract infections (UTI) are some of the bothersome conditions that could cause your child discomfort and pain.
UTIs are quite common in children, especially girls, but sometimes the signs of this infection can be hard to spot. It's important to get your child treated because a UTI can turn into a more serious kidney infection.
UTIs are bacterial infections in the urinary tract. Infections can occur in any part of the urinary tract such as the ureter, bladder, urethra and kidneys.
Infection in the lower part of the urinary tract (the urethra and bladder) is more common, and is known as cystitis. When the infection travels from the bladder to the kidneys, it's called pyelonephritis.
Spotting UTI in infants or toddlers may be difficult, as they may not be able to explain how they feel. Your child may just have a fever, loose stools, be fussy and refuse food.
If you think your child has a UTI, see your doctor immediately.
The doctor will carry out the following steps:
UTIs are commonly caused by bacteria, the most common of which is E. Coli (the bacteria responsible for stomach upsets).
Although bacteria are not normally found in urine, they may enter the urinary tract from the skin around the anus, penis or vagina. When this happens, the bacteria can multiply and cause an infection.
Certain circumstances can make it easier for bacteria to enter or remain in your child's urinary tract. The following factors can put your child at a higher risk for a UTI:
Girls are more prone to UTIs than boys as a girl's urethra is shorter and closer to the anus. This makes it easier for bacteria from the bowels to enter the bladder.
Constipation, inadequate water intake and poor diaper hygiene can also increase the risk of UTI.
Antibiotics play a major role in the treatment of UTI in children. The type of antibiotic and how long it must be taken depends on the type of bacteria causing the infection and the severity of the infection.
It is important to make sure that the course of antibiotics prescribed have completely cleared the infection because an incompletely treated UTI can come back or spread. So, after several days of antibiotics, your doctor may repeat the urine tests to confirm that the infection is gone.
Apart from the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor, you should encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. A warm pack or medication may also be used to relieve pain.
Kids should be encouraged to go to the bathroom as soon as they feel the urge because urine that stays in the bladder promotes bacterial growth. Also, encourage your child to empty their bladder fully when urinating.
It's also important to teach kids good hygiene habits. Girls should be taught to wipe from front to back to prevent germs from spreading from the rectum to the urethra. In babies, frequent diaper changes can help prevent the spread of bacteria that cause UTIs.
Avoid bubble baths, and perfumed soaps in girls as that might cause irritation. Also, girls should wear cotton underwear as it's less likely to encourage bacterial growth.
If left untreated, a UTI can result in a kidney infection that may lead to more serious conditions, like kidney abscess, reduced kidney function, swelling of the kidneys (hydronephrosis) or even kidney failure. Severe cases of UTI can cause sepsis, which can lead to organ failure and even death.
The initial signs of a UTI in children can be easily overlooked. Younger children may have a difficult time describing their sufferings.
It is best to consult a doctor if your child has an unexplained fever without a runny nose, or other obvious cause, especially if the fever is accompanied by pain when peeing. Early treatment can prevent the infection from becoming serious.