Pediatric HealthSource: Urinary Tract Infections

Christina Ching, M.D.
Christina Ching, M.D.

Q: My daughter keeps crying and nothing I try is consoling her. I heard that babies get urinary tract infections. Could my daughter have one, and what can I do to prevent them?

A: There is a list of things that could cause infants to cry. Some common reasons include hunger, discomfort or simply just wanting to be held or to hold a favorite toy. Medical issues can also cause children to cry, and one of them may be a urinary tract infection (UTI).

UTIs account for more than 1 million pediatric visits each year, so parents should know the causes and symptoms and ways to prevent them. These infections are caused by bacteria along the urinary tract. For infants, bacteria may enter the urinary tract through having a dirty diaper or being wiped from back to front.

It may be challenging to spot UTIs because symptoms vary for each child, and unfortunately infants cannot tell you where it hurts. Symptoms that could represent a UTI include fever, visible blood in the urine, foul-smelling urine, irritability, vomiting and/or poor feeding.Some infants may not have specific symptoms and may simply act unwell.

Symptoms may look like other medical conditions, so parents should always consult their pediatrician for a diagnosis, which can be made by collecting a catheterized urine sample.If your child is diagnosed with a UTI, treatment may include antibiotics, pain relievers, a heating pad and an increase in fluids. The doctor may recommend seeing a specialist, such as a pediatric urologist.

Not all UTIs are preventable, but regular urination, proper hydration and the maintenance of proper hygiene can help. Parents can help protect their child by knowing the signs of a UTI, seeking quick treatment and taking measures to prevent them in the future.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

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Christina Ching, M.D., is a urologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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Preventing UTIs

While UTIs are most common in babies younger than 12 months, they can affect children of any age. All parents should know:

  • Some conditions put babies and children at higher risk. These includeconstipation, abnormalities of the urinary tract and neurological conditions where the bladder doesn't empty properly.
  • Babies and young children can't tell you about their discomfort. It is important to pay attention to a fever without an obvious source and the urinary habits of your child to notice any abnormal patterns.
  • UTIs are more common in girls. To prevent a UTI, encourage your daughter to wipe from front to back to reduce the spread of germs.