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Today's Family Magazine

Urinary tract infections –– Kids can get them, too

Aug 09, 2016 11:04AM ● By Today's Family
Submitted by Cleveland Clinic

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are usually a concern for adult women. But did you know babies and young children – boys and girls – can get them.

UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urinary system through the urethra – the passageway where urine travels from the bladder to the outside of the body.  Bacteria can get into the urinary tract from the skin around the rectum and genitals.  “Waiting to urinate, improper hygiene or constipation are common causes of UTIs in children,” explains Jeffrey Donohoe, MD, a pediatric urologist at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital and Willoughby Hills Family Health Center.

Children with UTIs often go untreated because the symptoms are not obvious to the child or to the parents.  Immediate treatment is necessary to cure the infection, reduce the chances of kidney damage and prevent the infection from spreading.
UTI symptoms include:
  • Fever
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Frequent or difficulty urinating
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Wetting of underwear or bedding
  • Vomiting, refusal to eat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Side or back pain
  • Unexplained and persistent irritability in an infant
It’s important to distinguish between UTIs with fever and those without.  “Typically, urinary tract infections with a fever happen when the infection travels to the kidneys or a severe bladder infection is present,” says Dr. Donohoe.

Doctors treat UTIs with fever or in children younger than age two more aggressively because frequent or untreated UTIs can scar a child’s kidneys and cause permanent damage.
Parents can incorporate a few helpful habits into their child’s care to prevent UTIs.  These include:
  • Using the bathroom every two hours
  • Teaching girls to wipe from
  • front to back
  • Taking regular baths
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Incorporating pure cranberry juice into their diet
Your pediatrician can determine if your child has a UTI.  “Once a diagnosis is made, a prescription antibiotic can clear the problem up,” says Dr. Donohoe.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Donohoe or another Cleveland Clinic pediatric urologist, call 216.444.5600.  Cleveland Clinic offers same-day appointments.