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Dysuria, Infection vs. Chemical (Child)

The urethra is the channel that passes urine from the bladder. In a girl, the opening of the urethra is above the vagina. In a boy, it is at the tip of the penis. "Dysuria" is feeling pain or burning in the urethra when passing urine.

Dysuria can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the urethra. The cause for your child's dysuria is not certain. The most common cause of dysuria in young children is chemical irritation. Soaps, bubble baths, or skin lotions that get inside the urethra can cause this reaction. Symptoms will get better in 1 to 3 days after the last exposure.

Sometimes dysuria is caused by a bladder infection. A urine test can confirm this. A bacterial bladder infection is treated with an antibiotic. Sometimes children can get a viral infection of the bladder that will get better with time and no antibiotics are needed.

Dysuria may also occur in young girls with inflammation in the outer vaginal area (rash or vaginal infection). You may be given a cream to treat the outer vaginal irritation.

A vaginal infection may cause vaginal discharge and dysuria. This is diagnosed with a culture. Treatment with antibiotics may be needed.

Labial adhesions are a common cause in young girls. Parts of the labia are attached together. A small tear can cause pain. The tear will get better on its own, but an estrogen cream can be used to help treat the adhesions.

Minor trauma as a result from activities or self-exploration can also lead to dysuria.

Rarely, dysuria is a result of local trauma from sexual abuse. If you have concerns about possible sexual abuse, contact your child's healthcare provider right away or call the national child abuse hotline at 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453) to get help.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for your child at home:

  • Washing the genitals gently with a face cloth and soapy water should not cause a problem. Be careful that soap does not get inside the urethra. Be sure to dry the area well.

  • If you think bubble bath soap was the cause of urethritis, avoid bubble baths in the future.

  • Over-the-counter diaper creams may be applied to the area to alleviate local irritation.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as advised. If a culture specimen was taken, call for the result as directed.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Symptoms do not go away after 3 days

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) oral or 101.4°F (38.5°C) rectal or higher, or as directed by your child's healthcare provider

  • Inability to urinate due to pain

  • Increased redness or rash in the genital area

  • Discharge/bloody drainage from the penis or vagina

 

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