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.
A urine protein test measures the total amount of protein in the urine. Once a urine sample is collected, the lab determines the amount of protein in the urine sample. This test is often done as part of a routine urinalysis in which several chemicals in the urine are measured.
Why It's Done
In most healthy people, the kidneys prevent significant amounts of protein from entering the urine, so the urine protein test is most commonly used to screen for kidney disease. It's also used to monitor kidney function in kids already diagnosed with kidney disease or who are taking medications that can affect the kidneys.
Abnormal results also may point to diseases affecting other parts of the body. Other tests may be needed before a definite diagnosis can be made.
Before the test, your child might need to temporarily stop taking specific drugs that could interfere with results. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
Collecting the specimen should only take a few minutes. Your child will be asked to urinate into a clean sample cup in the doctor's office. If your child isn't potty trained and can't urinate into a cup, a small catheter may need to be inserted into the bladder to obtain the urine specimen.
Alternatively, a urine collection bag with adhesive tape on one end might be used to collect a sample from an infant. You'll clean your baby's genital area and then arrange the bag around the urinary opening. Once the bag is in place, you'll secure it with the attached tape. You can then put a diaper on your baby. Remove the collection bag once your baby has urinated into it, usually within an hour. Deliver this specimen to the lab.
If you take the specimen at home, follow any storage and transportation instructions the lab gives you.
What to Expect
Because the test involves normal urination, there shouldn't be any discomfort as long as your child can provide a urine specimen.
Getting the Results
The results of the urine protein test should be available within a day. Your doctor will go over the results with you and explain what they mean. If the results are abnormal, further tests may be ordered.
No risks are associated with taking a urine protein test. Infants may occasionally experience skin irritation from the adhesive tape on the collection bag. If a catheter is used to obtain the urine, it may cause temporary discomfort. If you have any questions or concerns about this procedure, talk to your doctor.
Helping Your Child
The urine protein test is painless. Explaining how the test will be conducted and why it's being done can help ease any fear. Make sure your child understands that there should be no foreign matter, such as toilet paper or hair, in the sample.
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about the urine protein test, speak with your doctor.