How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections in Children

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur often in children (more often in girls than boys), though symptoms vary between infants/young children and older children. In a young child, the only sign of a UTI may be a fever.

UTIs are caused when bacteria infect the urinary tract (the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra). Infections usually take place in the lower part of the tract – the urethra and bladder – and are referred to as cystitis. If the infection travels to the kidneys, it is a more serious condition called pyelonephritis.

UTIs are very treatable, but it’s important that they are caught early. Signs may appear to be fever and general irritability, other signs may include:

  • Pain, burning or stinging when urinating
  • An increased urge to urinate or frequent urination
  • Frequent night waking to go to the bathroom
  • Wetting problems (even though the child is toilet trained)
  • Low back or abdominal pain below the navel
  • Foul-smelling urine (may look cloudy or contain blood)

For infants and toddlers, frequent diaper changes are one way to help prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause UTIs. As they grow up and begin self-care, make sure your kids know good hygiene, such as wiping from front to back for girls. Older girls should avoid scented bubble bats and strong soaps that could cause irritation, and cotton underwear is less likely to spread bacteria. All children should drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine.