Urinary tract infections (UTI's) are common in young kids, so how exactly do they affect them and what can we do about it?
Dr Elysia Thornton Benko from Bondi Road Doctors takes us through the symptoms, treatment and prevention of UTI’s.
Firstly, what actually is the affected area?
“The urinary tract is anywhere from the urethra (where the urine comes out), then feeding back into the bladder, then that feeds back from the ureter, back to the kidneys where the urine is made,” Elysia explains. “Anywhere along that pathway could be infected.”
“Most of the time when we do see an uncomplicated urinary tract infection, it really is an infection related to the bladder. And things get a little bit more serious when that infection backtracks to the kidneys.”
Symptoms depend on the child’s age group.
With babies, you can’t tell whether they’ve got tummy pain or if it’s hurting when they wee. A newborn child up to three months of age might;
- Be generally unwell
- Have a fever
- Act grizzly
- Not be breastfeeding or not wanting their bottle,
- Have smelly urine (but they might not too)
These sorts of symptoms mean the child should go to the emergency department, where children under six months have priority.
Listen to Elysia on Kinderling Conversation:
Something Elysia notes is that “in the first year of life in uncircumcised males, they actually have more UTI’s than females. After the first year of life, females do take over. That’s because females have a shorter urethra,” she says. “It’s just a shorter distance for a bug to travel through that urinary tract.”
In an infant, and even young children, they might;
- Have smelly urine
- Pass urine more frequently OR not have gone to the toilet for a while
- Complain of pain while urinating (but they might not too)
It’s different to adults where we get the stinging and urine frequency, children don’t necessarily have the same symptoms as us. Elysia suggests that you just have to be alert to how the child is behaving.
“If it’s a confirmed UTI, it is treated with antibiotics,” Elysia explains.
For all boys under three months, and most children under six months, they will be encouraged to have an ultrasound six weeks after starting their antibiotics. This is just to make sure there’s no underlying abnormality or obstruction that could be contributing.
For older children, if the antibiotics are working and the child is responding, they’ll go back and check for clearance with a new, fresh urine specimen a couple weeks later.
If they weren’t responding or they have recurrent UTI’s, then the GP would investigate with an ultrasound and further testing if there’s still concern.
When your child is feeling unwell, keep them home from school and day care, but Elysia says to “use your parental instinct.” It’s not contagious so when they’re feeling well again, they’re okay to go back into their normal routine.
Elysia recommends getting into some good practices and routines with toileting. Take hygiene measures like always washing hands with soap after the toilet, and wiping from front to back. Drinking lots of water to flush things through helps too.
And when someone does contract the infection, don’t worry! It doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone’s been unhygienic. It’s just that the tiny bacteria has managed to squeeze on through.
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