It’s quite common for young children, particularly those still in nappies, to get a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is exactly what happened to my six-month-old who ended up spending a night in hospital.
What’s a UTI?
A UTI is when there’s an infection in either the bladder, urethra (tube where urine leaves the bladder) or kidneys – basically any area in the body that either collects or passes urine.
Cystitis is a very common UTI in adult women, however young children and babies can also get UTIs which are more likely to occur in girls and uncircumcised boys. Children with kidney abnormalities also have a higher risk of infection.
How does it happen?
UTIs occur when germs and bacteria make their way into the bladder or urethra. Generally the bacteria is from the bowels or poo that’s been on the skin, and it can happen very easily – particularly in babies who wear nappies and poo quite frequently. Holding on to urine, constipation and poor hygiene are also contributing factors.
Signs and symptoms
If left untreated, a UTI can cause permanent damage to the kidneys so it’s important to know what to look out for in your bub.
In the case of my baby, a high fever was the biggest indicator and a urine test confirmed it later. A UTI with a fever is considered dangerous as it means the infection is quite severe and has probably travelled to the kidneys. Suspected UTIs in children under two are also taken very seriously so it’s no wonder he had to spend the night in hospital.
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Not all UTIs are accompanied by a fever however. The most common signs of a UTI include:
- pain or stinging when urinating
- frequent urination or difficulty urinating
- vomiting and poor feeding
- bed or clothes wetting (by a child who’s toilet trained)
- pain in the abdomen, side or back
- bad smelling urine
- cloudy or bloody urine
- irritability or appears generally unwell
- poor growth
Treating the infection
If you suspect your child might have a UTI it’s important to see a doctor immediately, especially if they’re under two or have a fever. Antibiotics are the fastest and most effective way to cure the infection, and renal ultrasounds or further tests might also be required to ensure no damage has occurred to their kidneys.
Although my son’s UTI was around a year ago he still has to have an ultrasound check-up every six months.
If the UTI is only mild and you have a toddler or older child who can tell you the extent of their pain, pure cranberry juice can also help relieve symptoms and assist the healing process.
How to prevent a UTI
Unfortunately UTIs can occur anytime and it’s generally not the fault of the parent, however there are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of your child contracting this infection, including:
- change soiled nappies immediately, never leave your baby for long periods with a wet or full nappy
- give him regular baths
- make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, especially water from six months of age
- if you have a daughter, teach her to wipe from front to back when toilet training
- try and encourage your child to go to the toilet every two hours and not hold on
- watered down cranberry juice is also good for helping prevent a UTI
- be sure to give your child the full course of antibiotics as UTIs can reoccur very easily
- if toilet trained, dress your child in cotton underwear for better ventilation
If you suspect your child might have a UTI be sure to speak to your doctor or a health professional.