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Many children get urinary tract infections (UTIs). Common types of UTIs in children include:
Some kids get UTIs repeatedly; these are called recurrent UTIs. Sometimes, recurrent UTIs in a child might mean there is a problem with the structure or function of the urinary tract. If not treated, UTIs can cause kidney damage, especially in children younger than age six. That's why it's important your child's doctor monitors and evaluates UTIs if they seem to happen often with your child.
Many children get urinary tract infections, but they are more common in girls and uncircumcised boys. About 8% of girls have had at least one UTI by the age of five; about 2% of boys have had at least one.
Bacteria repeatedly entering and growing within a child's urinary tract cause recurrent UTIs. E. coli, a bacterium present in feces, is the most common cause of children's urinary tract infections.
Among the factors that increase the chance of recurrent UTIs in children are:
Babies and young children can't tell you about any symptoms they may feel. So, look for:
Older children are more likely to have traditional symptoms, such as:
UTIs can also cause kids to have urinary accidents, even if they've never had those problems before.
Your child's doctor performs a physical exam and may order a urinalysis and a urine culture to check for bacteria in the urine. It is best to have a urine culture with any suspected UTI to determine what specific bacteria are present. It takes a day or two for the urine culture results, but many doctors prescribe antibiotics right away to fight the infection if they think the symptoms and urinalysis strongly suggest an infection. Some doctors will wait until the final urine culture results are available to prescribe an antibiotic if symptoms are not severe.
If your child is getting recurrent UTIs, the doctor might order imaging tests of the urinary tract to see whether a structural problem with the tract might be causing the repeated infections. Those imaging tests might include:
Recurrent UTIs are treated with antibiotics that help kill bacteria. The antibiotics may be in pill or liquid form – or given through a vein if your child is very sick.
If tests show a problem with your child's urinary tract form or function, his or her doctor might recommend surgery to fix the problem. One common surgery corrects a problem where urine backflows from the bladder into the kidney. That surgery repositions the ureters to help prevent the backflow.
Usually, surgery isn't necessary because most children outgrow the condition.
Sometimes doctors may prescribe antibiotics for months or even years to prevent recurrent infections when structural or other treatable problems are not the cause.
In addition, changing certain habits might help your child avoid UTIs. Doctors often recommend that children:
Recurrent urinary tract infections need to be treated promptly to avoid longer-term problems. However, effective treatment and improving children's habits often fixes the issue.
If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices.