A parent’s guide to Urinary Tract Infections in children

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection anywhere in the urinary tract which includes the organs that produce, pass or store urine including the kidneys, ureters (the tube through which urine passes out of the kidneys) and urinary bladder. UTI is quite common, especially in young children and infants. But it can also occur in older children.

What are the symptoms of UTI?

  • Moderate to high-grade fever without cold/cough
  • Pain on passing urine
  • Needing to pass urine more frequently
  • Passing urine before getting to the toilet (incontinence or wetting)
  • Pain in the lower part of the tummy
  • Experiencing a burning pain when passing urine
  • Smelly urine
  • In young children, UTI may also cause a fever or general un-wellness without any of the above symptoms

When is a child diagnosed with UTI?

A routine urine test can detect the possibility of a UTI. Additional tests such as a Urine Culture might also be performed.

Moreover, there are some special tests which need to be conducted to diagnose the disease too. Many children with UTI, especially below the age of 5 years, may have underlying problems of the urinary bladder or kidneys.

Common tests done to identify these problems include Ultrasound scan (which is a simple and painless test) and Micturating Cystourethrogram (MCU) and special scans such as DMSA scan.

In MCU test, a catheter is put into the bladder through the urethra. Dye is injected through the catheter and X-Ray pictures are taken. The test is done mainly to look for a condition known as Urinary Reflux (sometimes called VUR).

Treatment of UTI

Antibiotics are the mainstay of therapy. They can be taken orally or have to be given as injections, depending on the severity of the illness and age of the child.

How to assist children with UTI?

Most children with UTI make a good recovery and have no future problems. In a very small number of children, there may be underlying kidney or urinary bladder problems, which will need further follow up. Your doctor will discuss the necessary tests and how to monitor this.

It is recommended for a child who has had a UTI in the past to get the blood pressure checked yearly and to do a urine test in every subsequent episode of fever.

What should you as a parent do?

Ensure that your child drinks about 1-1.5 litres of water a day. Please avoid high-salt foods like Chinese, chips, wafers, pickles, papad, etc. in your child’s daily diet. Encourage a diet to your child that includes fruits, vegetables and high fibre so as to avoid constipation. Ensure that your child passes urine 7-8 times a day.

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