Urinary Tract Infection

Also known as: UTI, bladder infection (cystitis), kidney infection (pyelonephritis).

What is a urinary tract infection?

The body’s urinary tract includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. It’s responsible for making, storing and removing urine from the body (plus other functions).

Normal urine has no bacteria in it and the one-way flow from kidneys to bladder usually prevents infections. When an infection does occur in the urinary system, it is known as a urinary tract infection, or UTI.

What causes urinary tract infection?

There are two types of UTI: bladder infection and kidney infection.

When bacteria (most commonly) travel up from the skin into the bladder and multiply, this is called cystitis. If bacteria travel up from the bladder into the kidneys, it’s called pyelonephritis.

Kidney infections are more serious than bladder infections. While many children who get UTI’s have normal urinary tracts, congenital abnormalities should be looked for to prevent kidney damage. Two common ones are vesicoureteral reflux and urinary tract obstructions (your pediatrician/nephrologist/urologist will explain what these are, how they develop, the investigations needed to diagnose them and treatment options).

What are the signs/symptoms of urinary tract infection?

In infants or young children, signs may be vague:

  • looking sick
  • fever
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • smelly urine may be found
Older children may complain of pain in the lower stomach or back, frequent burning pain with passing urine, urgent need or difficulty holding his/her urine with accidental wetting of clothing or bed.

What are urinary tract infection care options?

UTI’s are treated with an antibiotic that your pediatrician/nephrologist believes is the best drug for your child. Drinking plenty of fluids and passing urine often can often be of benefit.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: July 22, 2022 11:29 AM

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