Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection caused by bacteria (germs) getting into the urinary tract. The urinary tract is a term for those parts of the body involved in making and passing urine, which include the kidneys, bladder, ureters (tubes which connect the kidneys and bladder) and the urethra (tube through which the urine exits the body).

Urinary tract infections in children are fairly common and can affect the lower tract (bladder) or the upper tract (kidney). By 5 years old, about 8% of girls and 1-2% of boys have had at least one UTI.

 
What are the causes and signs of UTIs?

Some causes of UTIs in children include poor toilet and hygiene habits (not wiping from front to back or cleaning the bottom area thoroughly), the use of bubble baths or strongly scented soaps that can irritate the urethra and lead to holding onto urine, a family history of UTIs, or vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) when urine flows backwards from the bladder to the ureters and kidneys.

In older children, UTIs may cause obvious complaints such as burning or pain with urination (peeing) but UTIs may be harder to detect in infants and young children because symptoms are less specific.  

Be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:
  • persistent fever of unknown cause [100.4° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) rectally in infants, or over 101° Fahrenheit (38.3° Celsius) in children]
  • burning or pain when urinating
  • frequent or urgent urination, and frequent urination at night
  • strong-smelling, cloudy or bloody urine
  • abdominal (especially below the navel), back or side pain

Sometimes, a fever is the only sign of a UTI.

 
How are UTIs treated?

After performing a physical exam and asking about symptoms, your child’s primary care doctor will take a urine sample to check for and identify bacteria causing the infection.

If your child has a UTI, the infection will usually be treated with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Your doctor may refer your child for additional tests and an appointment with our Nemours pediatric urologists who specialize in treating both simple and complex urologic problems in children.