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Urinary Tract Infections in Children - Topic Overview

This topic is about urinary tract infections in children. For information about these infections in teens and adults, see the topic Urinary Tract Infections in Teens and Adults.

The urinary tract is the part of the body that makes urine and carries it out of the body. It includes the bladder and kidneys camera.gif and the tubes that connect them. When germs (called bacteria) get into the urinary tract, they can cause an infection.

Urinary infections in children usually go away quickly if you treat them right away. But if your child keeps getting infections, your doctor may suggest tests to rule out more serious problems.

Urinary infections can lead to a serious infection throughout the body called sepsis. Problems from a urinary infection are more likely to happen in babies born too soon, in newborns, and in infants who have something blocking the flow of urine.

Germs that live in the large intestine and are in stool can get in the urethra. This is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. Then germs can get into the bladder and kidneys.

Babies and young children may not have the most common symptoms, such as pain or burning when they urinate. Also, they can't tell you what they feel. In a baby or a young child, look for:

  • A fever not caused by the flu or another known illness.
  • Urine that has a strange smell.
  • Vomiting.
  • The child not being hungry.
  • The child acting fussy.

Older children are more likely to have common symptoms, such as:

  • Pain or burning when they urinate.
  • Needing to urinate often.
  • Loss of bladder control.
  • Red, pink, cloudy, or foul-smelling urine.
  • Pain in the flank, which is felt just below the rib cage and above the waist on one or both sides of the back.
  • Lower belly pain.

The doctor will give your child a physical exam and ask about his or her symptoms. Your child also will have lab tests, such as a urinalysis and a urine culture, to check for germs in the urine. It takes 1 to 2 days to get the results of a urine culture, so many doctors will prescribe medicine to fight the infection without waiting for the results. This is because a child's symptoms and the urinalysis may be enough to show an infection.

After your child gets better, the doctor may have him or her tested to find out if there is a problem with the urinary tract. For example, urine might flow backward from the bladder into the kidneys. Problems like this can make a child more likely to get an infection in the bladder or kidneys.

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