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What to Know About Taking Care of Your Child's Urinary Catheter

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 06, 2022

A urinary catheter helps to empty the bladder and allow it to heal during times of surgery, illness, or malfunction. The catheter is a tube that can be inserted into the bladder through the urethra, in which case it is called a Foley catheter, also known as an indwelling catheter. It can also be inserted during surgery, in which case it is called a Suprapubic catheter. 

Urinary Catheter Uses

There are many reasons why your child might need a catheter. These reasons include:

  • Relieving urine build-up in the bladder 
  • Managing incontinence 
  • Surgery that prevents your child from relieving themselves normally 

Regardless of the reason, if your child requires a catheter, it’s important to understand how to care for and clean the urinary catheter child to keep your child clean and comfortable.  

Urinary Catheter Care Instructions

When caring for your child’s catheter at home, it’s important to ensure that your child is consuming plenty of fluids. Consuming enough fluids can help prevent mucus plugs from forming and blocking the catheter. In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, your child should be receiving a nutritious and well-balanced diet to promote healing. 

You’ll also need to regularly check the urine flow and tubing. To ensure a proper urine flow, check the catheter and drainage tube throughout the day. It’s recommended to check every 4 hours. 

Don’t panic if you notice less urine in the morning or if urine is darker than normal. This is likely due to the number of fluids your child drank during the night, which may be significantly less than what they would drink through the day. The amount of urine your child produces throughout the day will also depend on how much your child drinks. 

If there is little to no urine or the draining has stopped even though your child has been drinking plenty of fluids, then you should follow these steps: 

  • Ensure the tubing is free from kinks
  • Check the tubing for clots or mucus 
  • Attempt to reposition or squeeze the tubing 
  • If instructed by your child’s doctor, irrigate the catheter 

If you’re unable to get the urine flowing after following these steps, you should contact your child’s doctor. 

To take care of the tubing, ensure that: 

  • The catheter is taped to the leg in a similar fashion to what was done at the hospital 
  • The drainage bag is placed lower than the bladder of your child at all times 
  • The tubing is positioned higher than the drainage bag, allowing the urine to flow downhill 
  • The drainage bag is emptied when it becomes half-full and before bed 

Additionally, when tending to your child’s catheter, ensure that you are always washing your hands before and after coming into contact with it. 

Urinary Catheter Cleaning

Cleaning the catheter will depend on what type your child has. 

If your child has a foley catheter, then you should: 

  • Use plain water to clean around the area where the tube is inserted into your child’s body once or twice a day
  • If you notice crust or mucus has formed around the catheter, proceed to gently remove it 
  • Always avoid using powders or lotions near the catheter

On the other hand, if a Suprapubic catheter is involved, you should: 

  • Check the skin around the insertion point of the catheter daily to ensure there are no signs of infection such as swelling, redness, and tenderness 
  • Ensure there are no signs of drainage
  • Use plain water to clean the area around the catheter and apply a fresh bandage

This should be done once a day or at times when the bandage is wet or soiled. 

To clean the drainage bag, follow these steps: 

  • Create a mixture of dish soap and water and a solution of 1 part liquid bleach to 50 parts water, or 1 teaspoon liquid bleach to 1 cup of water. 
  • Use clear water to rinse the bag. 
  • Use soapy water to wash the bag.
  • Rinse the soap from the bag using water. 
  • Soak the bag in the bleach mixture for 30 minutes.
  • Allow the bleach mixture to drain from the bag. 
  • Rinse the bag thoroughly with water. 
  • Dry by hanging.

When making the bleach mixture, make sure to use a fragrance-free bleach that is pure and is also additive-free. 

If you’re unable to get the bag clean, it’s time to throw it away and replace it with a new one. 

Common Urinary Catheter Problems

There are a few risks and problems that can arise from a urinary catheter such as: 

  • Infection
  • Catheter not draining
  • Catheter bag or tube leaking 
  • Catheter being pulled out 

If you are concerned about any of these issues, you should follow the management plan you and your doctor have set into place or call your doctor to find out what the next steps are. 

Urinary Catheter in Child Considerations

Discuss with your doctor whether or not your child can have a normal bath or shower. It’s unlikely that they will be able to take a normal bath or shower due to the increased risk of infection associated with these normal washing methods. If they are unable to bathe normally, then a sponge bath method should be used. 

When cleaning the catheter, be careful not to pull on it. 

Bear in mind that there are two types of drainage bags: a small leg bag and a drainage bag that is larger than that and does not connect to the leg. However, both connect to the catheter. 

If you notice that your child’s urine has developed a foul odor, has changed colors, has become bloody, or is not flowing normally, call your child’s doctor. 

Additionally, if your child is experiencing pain anywhere in the sides, belly, or back or has developed a fever or is vomiting, then you should also contact your child’s doctor.

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

Children’s Minnesota: “URINARY CATHETER (INDWELLING): CARE AT HOME.”

Cincinnati Children’s: “How to Care for a Foley Catheter.”

The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne: “Urinary catheters.”

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