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When Your Child Has a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Outline of girl's lower body showing kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Closeup of outline of boy's lower body showing bladder, urethra, and penis. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in the urinary tract. The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Children often get UTIs that affect the bladder. UTIs can be uncomfortable and painful. But with treatment, most children recover with no lasting effects.

What Is the Urinary Tract?

The following body parts make up the urinary tract:

  • Kidneys filter waste from the blood and make urine.

  • Ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

  • The bladder stores urine.

  • The urethra carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

What Causes a Urinary Tract Infection?

Most UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra. The urinary tracts of boys and girls are slightly different. The urethra is shorter in girls. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter. As a result, girls are more likely than boys to get UTIs.

What Are the Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection?

  • If your child has a UTI affecting the bladder (cystitis), symptoms can include:

    • Painful urination

    • Frequent urination

    • Urgent need to urinate

    • Blood in the urine

  • If your child has a UTI affecting the kidneys (pyelonephritis), symptoms are similar to those of a bladder infection. They can also include:

    • Fever

    • Abdominal pain

    • Nausea and vomiting

    • Cloudy urine

How Is a Urinary Tract Infection Diagnosed?

  • The doctor asks about your child’s symptoms and health history. Your child is examined.

  • A lab test, such as a urinalysis, is done. For this test, a urine sample is needed to check for bacteria and infection. If a UTI is suspected, the doctor will likely start treatment even before lab results come back.

  • If your child has severe symptoms, other tests may be done. You’ll be told more about this, if needed.

How Is a Urinary Tract Infection Treated?Girl drinking glass of water.

  • Symptoms of a UTI generally go away within 24 to 72 hours of starting treatment.

  • The doctor will prescribe antibiotics for your child. Make sure your child takes ALL of the medication even if he or she starts feeling better. 

  • You can do the following at home to relieve your child’s symptoms:

    • Give your child over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to manage pain and fever. Do not give ibuprofen to an infant who is less than 6 months of age, or to a child who is dehydrated or constantly vomiting. Do not give aspirin to a child with a fever. This can put your child at risk of a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

    • Ask your doctor about other medications that can be prescribed to relieve painful urination.

    • Give your child plenty of fluids to drink.

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Symptoms that do not improve within 48 hours of starting treatment

  • Fever:

    • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

    • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

    • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

    • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • A fever that goes away but returns after starting treatment

  • Increased abdominal or back pain

  • Signs of dehydration (very dark or little urine, excessive thirst, dry mouth, dizziness)


How Is a Urinary Tract Infection Prevented?

  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids.

  • Encourage your child to empty the bladder all the way when urinating.

  • Teach girls to wipe from the front to back when using the bathroom.


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