Urinary tract infections describe a health problem that results from a bacterial infection along the urinary tract.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect about 3 percent of children in the United States every year and account for more than 1 million visits to pediatricians' offices every year. UTIs are uncommon in children younger than 3 to 5 years, but unlikely in boys at any age, unless an obstruction is present. They are much more common in girls as a result of a shorter urinary tract. Uncircumcised males are more likely to develop a UTI than circumcised males. Children with a complete or partial blockage in the urinary tract are more likely to develop a UTI.
Normal urine is sterile and contains fluids, salts, and waste products. It is free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. An infection occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra, the hollow tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, and travel up to the bladder.
Most infections arise from Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, which normally live in the colon.
A urinary tract infection may involve different sections of the urinary tract including the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of UTI. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of UTI may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
Your child's doctor may diagnose a urinary tract infection based on physical examination and a description of symptoms. Other studies may include a urinalysis (a laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein) and culture that will detect the presence of an infection.
A boy with a UTI or girls under age 5 or 6 may require further diagnostic testing with a renal ultrasound. This is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels. A voiding cystourethrography (VCUG) may also be needed in some children to evaluate the bladder and urethra and to detect reflux (in which urine backs up to the kidneys instead of flowing out through the urethra). In some cases, your doctor may recommend an intravenous pyelogram, a nuclear medicine scan, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These tests may help to rule out a structural abnormality of the urinary system.
Specific treatment for a urinary tract infection will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
Treatment may include:
Your child's doctor may ask you to bring your child back into the office a few days after treatment starts to reevaluate your child.
The following may help to prevent your child from developing urinary tract infections:
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