Urinary problems and injuries are a concern
in children. A young child may not be able to tell you about his or her
symptoms, which can make it hard to decide what your child needs. An older
child may be embarrassed about his or her symptoms. When your child has a
urinary problem or injury, look at all of his or her symptoms to determine what
steps to take next.
Pain during urination (dysuria) and a
frequent need to urinate are common symptoms in young
children. When your child has only one of these symptoms, or when the symptoms
are mild, home treatment may be all that is needed to prevent the problem from
getting worse and help relieve symptoms. Mild symptoms include:
A frequent need to urinate. A child's bladder is
small and does not hold as much urine as an adult's bladder. For this reason,
frequent urination is common and is not necessarily a sign of a urinary
problem. Your child may urinate more because he or she is drinking extra fluid,
feeling nervous, or simply from habit.
Urine that is more
concentrated and appears darker, if your child is slightly
dehydrated. Give your child more fluids to prevent
serious problems from dehydration. As your child drinks more fluids, the color
of his or her urine will return to normal.
Burning pain when urine
touches irritated skin around the
vagina or urethra. Pain during urination because of
skin irritation occurs more often in girls (genital skin irritation) than it does in boys.
Pain during urination and a frequent need to urinate can also
mean your child has a
urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infections
(UTIs) are the second most common bacterial infection in children. When your
child has an infection, bacteria grow in the bladder and irritate the bladder
wall. This causes pain as soon as a very small amount of urine reaches the
bladder. You may find your child trying to urinate more often than usual in an
effort to soothe the pain. But your child will pass very little urine
because the bladder has only collected a small amount since the last time he or
she urinated. Symptoms of a UTI vary depending on a child's age.
Newborns and children younger than 2
Babies and very
young children who have UTIs often have symptoms that do not seem specific to
the urinary tract. Symptoms may include:
Fever, especially without other signs of
infections, such as a cough or runny nose. In babies, fever may be the only
symptom of a urinary tract infection.
Frequent or infrequent
Strong or bad-smelling urine.
blood-streaked urine. Note: It is common for
newborns to pass some pink urine in the first 3 days of life. This may be from crystals in the urine. Parents will notice a pink color to the urine in the diaper.
UTIs are caused when bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are normally present in the
digestive tract, enter the urinary tract. Two common types of UTIs are:
Bladder infections, which occur when
bacteria get into the bladder by traveling up the urethra.
Kidney infections, which usually occur when bacteria
get into a kidney by traveling from the bladder up the ureters. Kidney
infection also may occur if bacteria from an infection in another part of the
body travel to the kidneys through the bloodstream.
Except during the first 3 months of life, girls are more
likely than boys to have urinary problems. Girls are also more likely than boys
to have more than one UTI.
Babies and young children who have
problems with the structure or function of the urinary tract may be more likely
to have UTIs. A problem such as
vesicoureteral reflux or an
obstruction in the urinary tract may make it hard
to empty the bladder completely. This will allow bacteria to grow and spread
more easily through the urinary tract. These problems may be present at birth
(congenital) or can be the result of surgery, injury, or past infection.
During the first year of life, boys are more likely than girls to have a
structural (anatomic) reason for urinary problems. If your child has a known
structural or functional problem with the urinary tract, follow your doctor's
instructions about when to seek care for urinary symptoms.
cases, a urinary symptom may indicate a more serious illness, such as
injury, such as getting hit in the back or genital
area, may cause urinary problems. A visit to a doctor is usually needed if your
child has trouble urinating, cannot urinate, or has blood in his or her
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Starting home treatment at the
first minor signs of an
urinary tract infection may prevent the problem from
getting worse and help clear up your child's infection.
Encourage your child to
drink extra fluids as soon as you notice the symptoms
and for the next 24 hours. This will help dilute the urine, flush bacteria out
of the bladder, and decrease irritation.
Cranberry or blueberry juice may be a good
Do not give your child caffeinated or carbonated beverages,
which can irritate the bladder.
Encourage your child to urinate
often and to empty his or her bladder each time.
A warm bath may
help soothe your child's genital pain and itching. Avoid using bubble bath or
perfumed soaps, which may cause
genital skin irritation. It is okay if your child
urinates in the bath water. This may help relieve some of his or her
Skin irritation may increase your child's discomfort.
Look at your child's genital area with each
diaper change. Increased redness may mean skin irritation. Avoid further
irritation by changing your child's diapers often. For more information, see
Air-dry the skin on your
child's bottom when possible.
An allergy to soap or laundry
detergent may be causing your child's skin irritation. If you think this may be
the problem, try a different product that is unscented, such as CheerFree or
Ecover, rather than a detergent. Rinse twice to remove all traces of the
cleaning product. Avoid strong detergents.
Use gentle soaps, such as Basis, Cetaphil,
Dove, or Oil of Olay, and use as little soap as possible. Do not use deodorant
soaps on your child.
If your child has been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection
Follow all home care instructions your child's
doctor gave you.
Give your child his or her medicine exactly as
prescribed. If you are having difficulty giving the medicine, call your child's
doctor for advice.
Follow up with your child's doctor as instructed after
your child has finished the course of antibiotics. Many children will require
further testing. For more information, see the topic
Urinary Tract Infections in Children.
A urine specimen may be collected during your child's office
visit. Do not encourage your child to go to the bathroom immediately before the
office visit. Special urine collection bags or a
catheter may be used to collect urine from a baby or
toddler who is not toilet trained.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.