Urinary tract infection

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a frequent occurrence in children
It affects girls more often than boys and more commonly in under 5's.
It is caused by bacteria (germs) that get into the urine, usually from the bowel.
An infection can be in the bladder or higher up in the kidneys

Symptoms of an urinary infection

The symptoms are few and do not resemble those of adults, thus making it difficult to diagnose.
  • Fever
  • Pale
  • Lethargic
  • Lack of appetite
  • Break in weight gain curve
  • Stomach pain and or low back pain.
  • Vomiting
  • Smelly and or cloudy urine
  • Bed wetting or incontinence
  • The pain when urinating, the typical symptom of a urinary tract infection in an adult, is not present, in most children cases.

Urine test

The diagnosis of a urinary infection is confirmed by a urine test. This can be a a dip stick test in a clinic/GP setting and or hospital laboratory microbiological urine test.


  • Antibiotics are nearly always given. If left untreated a child can quickly become unwell and damage to the kidneys can occur.
  • Fluids must be encouraged to help flush the bacteria (germs) away.
  • Paracetamol for any pain and or fever is also important.

Causes of a urinary infection

Most urinary tract infections in children are a 'one off' and just one of those things, but in repeated and severe infections further investigation is required.

An renal ultrasound scan, specialist dye imaging scan (DMSA - dimercaptosuccinic acid) or a cystogram (MUCG - micturating cystourogram) must be done when atypical and recurrent UTI infections occur.

The most common cause of recurrent UTI's in children is vesico-ureteric reflux.

Vesico-ureteric reflux

Vesico-ureteric reflux, the most common urological problem in a child. Urine refluxes or flows up from the bladder back up the ureter to the kidney.

It occurs in approximately 1 in 100 children, more so in girls than boys, especially the under 5's and if one sibling has a problem it is likely to occur in others.

It causes repeated UTI's, and the same symptoms as listed above.

Preventing urinary infection

  • Baby: wash the genitals with each change of nappy.
  • If older and cleans herself alone, help her or check that she cleaned herself completely.
  • Teach little girls to wipe themselves from the front to the back in order to prevent bacteria in the anus reaching the vagina or the urethra thus limiting infection risk.
  • Encourage children to drink plenty of fluids and not to hold on to urine when playing but to empty their bladder when it feels full.
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