Urinary Tract Infections in Children
|Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect about 3 percent of children in the United States every year. Throughout childhood, the risk of a UTI is 2 percent for boys and 8 percent for girls. UTIs account for more than 1 million visits to pediatrician’s offices every year. The symptoms are not always obvious to parents, and younger children are usually unable to describe how they feel. Recognizing and treating urinary tract infections is important. Untreated UTIs can lead to serious kidney problems that could threaten the life of your child.
How do you find out whether your child has a urinary tract infection?
Only by consulting a health care provider can you find out for certain whether your child has a urinary tract infection.
Some of your child’s urine will be collected and examined. The way urine is collected depends on your child age. If the child is not yet toilet trained, the health care provider may place a plastic collection bag over your child’s genital area. It will be sealed to the skin with an adhesive strip. An older child may be asked to urinate into a container. The sample needs to come as directly into the container as possible to avoid picking up bacteria from the skin or rectal area. A doctor or nurse may need to pass a small tube into the urethra. Urine will drain directly from the bladder into a clean container through this tube, called a catheter. Sometimes the best way to get the urine is by placing a needle directly into the bladder through the skin of the lower abdomen. Getting urine through the tube or needle will ensure that the urine collected is pure.
Some of the urine will be examined under a microscope. If an infection is present, bacteria and sometimes pus will be found in the urine. If the bacteria from the sample are hard to see, the health care provider may place the sample in a tube or dish with a substance that encourages any bacteria present to grow. Once the germs have multiplied, they can then be identified and tested to see which medications will provide the most effective treatment. The process of growing bacteria in the laboratory is known as performing a culture and often takes a day or more to complete.
The reliability of the culture depends on how long the urine stands before the culture is started. If you collect your child’s urine at home, refrigerate it as soon as it is collected and carry the container to the health care provider or lab in a plastic bag filled with ice.
What tests may be needed after the infection is gone?
Once the infection has cleared, additional tests may be recommended to check for abnormalities in the urinary tract. Repeated infections in abnormal urinary tracts may cause kidney damage. The kinds of tests ordered will depend on your child and the type of urinary infection. Because no single test can tell everything about the urinary tract that might be important, more than one of the following tests may be needed:
What abnormalities lead to urinary problems?
Many children who get urinary tract infections have normal kidneys and bladders. But if a child has an abnormality, it should be detected as early as possible to protect the kidneys against damage. Abnormalities that could occur include the following:
Do urinary tract infections in children have long-term effects?
Young children are at the greatest risk for kidney damage from urinary tract infections, especially if they have some unknown urinary tract abnormality. Such damage includes kidney scars, poor kidney growth, poor kidney function, high blood pressure, and other problems. For this reason it is important that children with urinary tract infections receive prompt treatment and careful evaluation.