A urinary tract infection (known as a UTI) is an infection in the urethra, bladder and/or kidneys.
UTIs are common in children. Approximately 1 in 10 girls and 1 in 50 boys will have had an infection by seven years of age. Infections in children under one year are more common in boys but in older children infections are more common in girls.
What is causes it?
UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the body and travel up the urinary tract causing an infection.
Signs and symptoms
- stinging or burning when passing urine
- feeling the need to pass urine more often
- smelly urine
- pain in the tummy or back
Babies with a UTI may have a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, being unsettled, feeding less or pale skin.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose a UTI by testing a sample of your child’s urine.
The doctor can test the urine sample immediately if your child is over two years old. If positive, it is likely that your child has a UTI. The sample still needs to be sent to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis and find out which antibiotics are best to treat your child’s infection. This takes one to two days. In younger children the immediate testing is less reliable, and the sample will need to be tested in the laboratory.
More tests may be required if your child is very unwell, very young or has had a lot of UTIs. Your doctor will discuss this with you if needed.
Collecting a urine sample
It is important that the urine sample is not contaminated by germs from the outside when it is collected as this may lead to a wrong diagnosis.
Your doctor or nurse will explain the best way of getting a urine sample from your child.
You may be given a urine jar to take home to collect the urine. See the factsheet for advice on how to collect a clean urine specimen. The sample collected should be taken to your doctor within four hours to be tested.
What is the treatment?
UTIs are treated with antibiotics. Usually the antibiotics needed are a liquid or tablets that can be taken at home.
If your child is less than three months of age or very unwell, it is likely they will be admitted to hospital to have antibiotics through a drip (intravenously).
The earlier the treatment is started the better. If the doctor suspects your child has a UTI they will start him or her on antibiotics once a sample has been collected for testing at a laboratory. The type of antibiotics may be changed when the test results are available from the laboratory.
Antibiotics usually need to be taken for three to five days. It may take a day or two until your child’s symptoms start to improve.
Care at home
Paracetamol (Panadol) or Ibuprofen (Nurofen) may help with your child’s symptoms. Follow the instructions on the packaging to make sure you give your child the correct dose.
Ural sachets may help with the pain in adolescents. They can be purchased from a pharmacy.
Keep in mind that these medications will not cure the infection. Your child will still need to take the antibiotics. Make sure you attend the follow-up appointment with your doctor to check your child is taking the right antibiotics.
It is important that your child drinks enough fluids. Offer regular sips of fluids that contain sugar such as diluted juice or milk. If your child is in nappies, count how many wet nappies they have in a day. They should have at least half the usual number. For older children, keep track of how often they pass urine and the colour. Not going to the toilet much and dark coloured urine are signs of dehydration.