Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Children

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Urinary tract infections are a fairly common problem in childhood and may have either a benign course responding to simple antibiotic therapy or be associated with significant disruption in either the anatomy or function of a child's urinary system. This article will focus on UTIs affecting children, with an emphasis on those less than 2 years of age. Because of their more unique and complicated nature, neonatal (less than 28 days of age) UTIs will not be addressed as a specific issue. The principles discussed below, however, are applicable to that age group.

The urinary tract is commonly divided into two areas. The upper urinary tract consists of the kidneys and the delicate tubular structure (ureter) that runs from the kidney to the bladder. The lower tract includes the bladder and the urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside of the body).

Urinary tract infection (UTI) facts

  • Childhood urinary tract infections are fairly common and are generally caused by bacteria. Routine antibiotic therapy is successful in resolving these infections.
  • Recurrent UTIs in children may be indicative of malformation or malfunction of the urinary tract.
  • Common symptoms and signs of UTIs in children include pain and urgency with urination, blood in the urine, abdominal/pelvic pain, fever, flank pain, and vomiting.
  • Some selected children who experience a UTI should have diagnostic studies performed. These children include children less than 2 years of age, any male child, any child who has had more than one UTI or any child who has had pyelonephritis.
  • Several recommendations exist to help lessen the likelihood of a child developing a UTI.

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

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A urinary tract infection is an infection of the bladder (cystitis) or kidney(s) (pyelonephritis). Cystitis is considerably more common than the more severe and more serious pyelonephritis.

What causes urinary tract infections in children?

Bacteria cause the large majority of urinary tract infections in children. Viral infection of the bladder is less common, while fungal infections of the urinary tract are rare and occur most commonly in immunocompromised individuals (for example, those with HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy recipients).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/20/2013

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