Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

How can you tell if your child has a urinary tract infection? There are some common symptoms that may indicate a UTI. Look for the following symptoms in your child:

  • fever
  • pain or burning during urination
  • need to urinate more often, or difficulty getting urine out
  • urgent need to urinate, or wetting of underwear or bedding by a child who knows how to use the toilet
  • vomiting, refusal to eat
  • abdominal pain
  • side or back pain
  • foul-smelling urine
  • cloudy or bloody urine
  • unexplained and persistent irritability in an infant
  • poor growth in an infant

If your child has symptoms of a UTI, your pediatrician will do the following:

  • ask about your child’s symptoms
  • ask about what your child has been eating and drinking (certain foods can irritate the urinary tract and cause similar symptoms)
  • examine your child
  • get a urine sample from your child

Your pediatrician will need to test your child’s urine to see if there are bacteria or other abnormalities. There are several ways to collect urine from a child. The preferred method to diagnose a UTI is to place a small tube, called a catheter, through the urethra into the bladder. Urine flows through the tube into a special urine container. Another method is to insert a needle through the skin of the lower abdomen to draw urine from the bladder. This is called needle aspiration. If your child is very young or not yet toilet trained, the pediatrician may place a plastic bag over the genitals to collect the urine. Since bacteria can contaminate the urine and give a false test result, this method is used only to screen for infection. An older child may be asked to urinate into a container. Your pediatrician will discuss with you the best way to collect your child’s urine.

Keep in mind, UTIs are common and most are easy to treat. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are important because untreated or repeated infections can cause long-term medical problems. Talk to your pediatrician if you suspect that your child might have a UTI.

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