UTIs in Children: How Can I Tell if My Child Has a Urinary Tract Infection?

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According to Babycenter.com, about 8 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys will have at least one UTI, or urinary tract infection, during childhood. UTIs happen when bacteria gets in the urine by way of bloodstream or skin around the genitals. This can create an infection and inflammation of the urinary tract.

If your kids are older than 4-years old, they can probably describe what they are feeling when they’re in pain or uncomfortable. But for babies that cannot talk or toddlers who are just learning to put sentences together, how can you very well pinpoint what is wrong with them when it can be so many different things? And if you’ve never dealt with a urinary tract infection (UTI) before, you probably don’t know what signs to look out for.

So here’s what you should check for to determine if your child should see a doctor:

Most Obvious Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Babies or Toddlers

  1. Most Obvious Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection in Babies or Toddlers
    1.   Odd-smelling Urine: The most obvious symptom of a UTI is odd-smelling urine. The foul odor comes from the bacteria that has entered into the urinary tract. For babies and toddlers, do a smell check of their diaper to see if the urine smells different than normal. Not all babies or children will have odd-smelling urine during a urinary tract infection but you can’t miss it if it happens to them.
    1.   Cloudy or Bloody Urine: Hematuria, or blood in the urine, is fairly common and UTIs and typically doesn’t signify anything serious unless an infection has gone untreated for an extended amount of time. Bloody urine will be a lot easier to spot on a diaper than cloudy urine but sometimes the blood is so microscopic that only a urine test will detect it.

    Other Telltale Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections

    1.   Fever: Not all babies with a UTI have a fever, and for some babies, fever is the only symptom they’ll show with a UTI. The rule of thumb is that if the fever reaches above 100.4 for a baby under 3 months, 101 for a 3-6 month old, or 103 for babies and children 6 months or older, you should seek medical advice. Even if your baby or toddler has a low-grade fever that won’t go away, you should take them to see a doctor for testing. Vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea may also accompany a UTI but these symptoms can be mistaken for a variety of illnesses.
    2.   Crying or Unexplained Irritability: Babies cry for many reasons so it’s hard to tell sometimes why they are crying especially for first time moms. Are they just wanting to be held? Or are they in pain from colic, constipation, or a urinary tract infection? When you’ve covered all the possibilities within your control – fed them, changed them, burped them, made sure they’re not too hot or cold – watch to see how often they have bouts of irritability.  The good news is that UTIs are usually easy to treat but can cause permanent kidney failure and damage if left untreated. So if your child has any of the above symptoms or other unusual symptoms, it’s best to have them seen and tested by a medical professional. You can take your child to an ER clinic for urgent care and attention, especially if it’s after hours, and you cannot see your pediatrician.A UTI is most painful during urination. If you notice sporadic fussiness and irritability, monitor your child while they urinate. Some toddlers can respond if you ask them if it hurts when they go potty. For babies, it’ll be a little harder and may take a little longer to assess. Take their diaper off, and watch for their next urination. If they cry or look like they are in pain, take them to the doctor immediately.