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Patient education: Urinary tract infections in children (The Basics)

Patient education: Urinary tract infections in children (The Basics)

What is the urinary tract? — The urinary tract is the system of organs that makes, stores, and carries urine out of the body (figure 1). The organs in the urinary tract are the:

Kidneys – The kidneys make urine.

Ureters – The ureters are thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Bladder – The bladder stores urine.

Urethra – The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body.

What causes a urinary tract infection? — A urinary tract infection (or "UTI") is usually caused by bacteria. Normally, bacteria are not in the urinary tract. But if they travel up the urethra and get into the bladder or kidneys, they can cause a UTI.

Children can have a higher chance of getting a UTI if:

Their urinary system didn't form normally before birth.

Their bladder doesn't work normally.

They are male and are not circumcised. (Circumcision is surgery to remove the skin that covers the tip of the penis.)

What are the symptoms of a UTI? — Symptoms depend on the child's age and ability to talk.

Children younger than 2 years old, and children who cannot talk, can have 1 or more of the following:

Fever – This might be a child's only symptom.

Acting fussy

Children age 2 years and older who are able to complain can have:

Pain or a burning feeling when they urinate

A need to urinate more often than usual

New problems with bedwetting or daytime wetting (in children who are toilet trained)

Pain in the lower belly or on the sides of the back (figure 2)


Is there a test for a UTI? — Yes. To check for a UTI, the doctor or nurse will do tests on your child's urine. To give a urine sample, your child will need to urinate into a container at the doctor's office.

If your child is not toilet trained, the doctor or nurse can get a sample of urine from your child's bladder. One way to do this is for the doctor or nurse to put a thin tube in your child's urethra and up into the bladder to drain a sample of urine. Then, they will remove the tube and test the urine.

How are UTIs treated? — UTIs are treated with antibiotic medicines. These medicines kill the bacteria causing the infection.

Your child's symptoms should start improving within 1 to 2 days after starting the medicine. It is important that your child take the medicine exactly as directed. If they don't, the infection could come back.

When should I call the doctor or nurse? — Call the doctor or nurse if your child's symptoms don't get better or get worse, or if your child is not able to take the medicine.

You should also call if your child gets symptoms of another UTI in the future.

What if my child gets UTIs a lot? — If your child gets UTIs a lot, your child's doctor might recommend that your child take an antibiotic every day. This can help prevent them from getting more UTIs.

More on this topic

Patient education: Fever in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Should I have my baby circumcised? (The Basics)
Patient education: Blood in the urine (hematuria) in children (The Basics)

Patient education: Urinary tract infections in children (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 01, 2023.
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