Urinary Tract Infection In Children Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

Urinary Tract Infection In Children Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

What is a urinary tract infection?

Urinary Tract Infection is an infection in the urinary tract. Infections are caused by microbes—organisms too small to be seen without a microscope—including fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Bacteria are the most common cause of Urinary Tract Infections. Normally, bacteria that enter the urinary tract are rapidly removed by the body before they cause symptoms. However, sometimes bacteria overcome the body’s natural defenses and cause infection. An infection in the urethra is called urethritis. A bladder infection is called cystitis. Bacteria may travel up the ureters to multiply and infect the kidneys. A kidney infection is called pyelonephritis.

How serious are the infections in children?

Urinary infections in children usually go away quickly if you treat them right away. But infections that aren't treated right away could cause permanent damage. The kidneys may not work well, which could lead to kidney failure. Infants and young children are at extra risk for kidney damage from infections.

Urinary infections also can lead to a serious infection throughout the body called sepsis. Problems from a urinary infection are more likely to happen in babies born too soon, in newborns, and in infants who have something blocking the flow of urine.

Urinary Tract Infection In Children Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, Home Remedies

What happens under normal conditions?

The urinary tract controls the outflow of urine, one of the body's liquid waste products. The kidneys produce about 1and 1/2 to two quarts a day in an adult, and less in children, depending on their age. Urine travels from the kidneys down tubes, the ureters, into a balloon-like container called the bladder. In children, the bladder can hold 1 to 1 and 1/2 ounces of urine for every year of age (e.g., four to six ounces, or a little less than a cup, in a four-year-old). When the bladder empties, it pushes the urine out of the body through a tube at the bottom of the bladder called the urethra. The opening of the urethra is at the end of the penis in boys and in front of the vagina in girls. In normal children, there is flow of urine only in one direction, from the kidneys, down the ureters, into the bladder and then out the urethra. This constant one directional flow helps prevent infections.

What causes urinary tract infections in children?

Normal urine is sterile and contains no bacteria. However, even under normal circumstances bacteria cover the skin and are present in large numbers in the rectal area and within bowel movements. Bacteria may, at times, get into the urinary tract and travel up the urethra into the bladder. When this happens, the bacteria multiply and unless the body gets rid of the bacteria, they can cause infection (urinary tract infection or "Urinary Tract Infection."

There are two general types of Urinary Tract Infections—bladder infection and kidney infection. When the infection involves the bladder it can cause inflammation, swelling and pain of the bladder. This is called cystitis. If the bacteria travel upward from the bladder through the ureters and reach and infect the kidneys, the kidney infection is called pyelonephritis. Kidney infections are more serious than bladder infections, and can cause kidney damage especially in young children.

What are the symptoms of urinary tract infections in children?

Babies and young children may not have the most common symptoms, such as pain or burning when they urinate. Also, they can't tell you what they feel. In a baby or a young child, look for:

  • A fever not caused by the flu or another known illness.
  • Urine that has a strange smell.
  • The child not being hungry.
  • Vomiting.
  • The child acting fussy.
Older children are more likely to have common symptoms, such as:

  • Pain or burning when they urinate.
  • Needing to urinate often.
  • Loss of bladder control.
  • Red, pink, cloudy, or foul-smelling urine.
  • Pain in the back on one side (flank pain) or lower belly pain.

How are urinary tract infections diagnosed in children?

If you think your child has a urinary tract infection, call your doctor. The only way to diagnose a urinary infection is with a urine test. Your doctor will collect a urine sample for evaluation. The method your physician uses will depend on your child's age. For instance, if your toddler is not toilet-trained, your doctor may simply attach a plastic bag to their skin to collect the sample. If your child is older, you may be asked to help catch the specimen as your child empties his or her bladder. Since it is critical that the collected urine be free from bacteria on the surrounding skin, it is sometimes necessary to pass a small tube into the urethra or a needle into the low abdomen into the bladder directly to collect a good sample.

This sample of urine is then examined under a microscope. If an infection is present, your doctor may be able to see bacteria and pus (white blood cells). This test takes only a few minutes. The doctor may also perform a urine culture, a process in which bacteria from urine are grown in a laboratory incubator to determine whether there is significant bacterial growth. The bacteria can then be identified and tested to see which drugs will most effectively treat the infection. There are many different kinds of bacteria that can infect the urine and different types of bacteria may require different types of antibiotic treatment. It takes several days to complete urine culture testing.

How long do Urinary Tract Infections in children last?

Once an effective antibiotic has been selected and administered, most patients experience a rapid and permanent resolution of their symptoms. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections raise a concern regarding anatomical abnormalities of the urinary tract (for example, kidney malformation). Similarly, malfunction of the urinary tract (for example, reflux of urine from the bladder to the kidney) is another condition commonly associated with recurrent Urinary Tract Infections.

How are urinary tract infections treated in children?

Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. If your doctor thinks your child has a urine infection, they will choose a drug that treats the bacteria most likely to be causing the problem. Sometimes a few days later, after the culture results are finished, the antibiotic drug might be changed to one that is more effective against the particular bacteria found in your child's urine. In addition to antibiotics, you can help your child's body fight the infection by encouraging lots of fluids and very frequent urination.

The specific antibiotic drug, way it is given and number of days that it must be taken may depend, in part, on the type and severity of infection. If your child is very sick and unable to take fluids, the antibiotic may need to be given as shots (injected directly into the bloodstream or muscle) with your child in the hospital; otherwise, oral medicine may be given. The daily treatment schedule your child's doctor recommends will depend upon the specific drug prescribed: it may call for a single dose each day or up to four daily doses. In some cases you will be asked to give your child medicine until further tests are finished.

After a few doses of the antibiotic, your child may appear much improved or even have returned to their normal activities, but often it may take weeks before all symptoms are gone. Even if they are improved, it is important that your child take the antibiotic medicines as prescribed by your doctor and not stop them because just because the symptoms have gone away. Unless urinary tract infections are fully treated, they may return, or your child may get another infection.

Can Urinary Tract Infections in children be prevented? Are there any home remedies for Urinary Tract Infections in children?

There are several suggestions that have been made by pediatric urologists to lessen the likelihood of children developing urinary tract infections. These include

  • Hygiene: Wipe females from front to back during diaper changes or after using the toilet in older girls. With uncircumcised males, mild and gentle traction of the foreskin helps to expose the urethral opening. Most boys are able to fully retract the foreskin by 4 years of age.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, especially water as they grow up
  • Complete bladder emptying: Some toilet-trained children are in hurry to leave the bathroom. Encourage "double voiding" (urinating immediately after finishing the first void). Children should be encouraged to urinate approximately every two to three hours. Some children ignore the sensation of a full bladder in the desire to continue to play
  • Avoid the "4 C's": carbonated drinks, high amounts of citrus, caffeine (sodas), and chocolate. Some kidney specialists are not as adamant about this option.
  • Avoid bubble baths: Some renal specialists also view this recommendation with skepticism.
  • Encourage cranberry juice: Similar to the above "4 C's," some specialists view this suggestion as folklore.
  • Prophylactic antibiotics: Daily low-dose antibiotics under a doctor's supervision may be used in children with recurrent Urinary Tract Infections or in those with anatomic or physiologic factors that predispose to Urinary Tract Infections.
  • If your teenage daughter is suffering from recurrent Urinary Tract Infection’s and she is sexually active, she should talk with her GP about additional preventive steps she can take.

Points to Remember

Urinary tract infections usually occur when the body fails to remove bacteria rapidly from the urinary tract.

Urinary Tract Infections affect about 3 percent of children in the United States every year.

Most Urinary Tract Infections are not serious, but chronic kidney infections can cause permanent damage.

A Urinary Tract Infection in a young child may be a sign of an abnormality in the urinary tract that could lead to repeated problems.

Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection range from slight burning with urination or unusual-smelling urine to severe pain and high fever. A child with a Urinary Tract Infection may also have no symptoms.

Parents should talk with their health care provider if they suspect their child has a Urinary Tract Infection.