The workings of the excretory system are often shrouded in euphemisms and discreet whispers. So, when things go wrong, it gets painfully embarrassing for the child to discuss the subject, even with the parent. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is one of the usual suspects. That’s why you have to be aware and vigilant. Knowing all you have to about the condition can help you relieve your child of unnecessary pain and discomfort.
What is UTI?
UTI is an infection of the part of the excretory system through which urine passes; this includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
The causes of urinary tract infection in children can be varied and diverse. Here are the common ones:
- Holding back and not urinating when there is a need to. Children, especially in school, don’t use the restroom regularly. This may be because they are shy or not comfortable using the facility outside home.
- Not enough consumption of water. Children often have the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to water. A busy day filled with work and play can easily keep them away from optimum levels of water consumption for long.
- Congenital anomalies which leave the child predisposed to certain conditions and ailments associated with the urinary tract.
- Backward flow of urine from the bladder to the kidneys (reflux).
- Harmful bacteria from the digestive system infecting the urinary tract (through the skin in the anus region).
- Poor toilet and hygiene habits.
- Constipation can also cause UTI, as the hard stool in the bowel can put pressure on the urinary tract. This can, in turn, cause bacteria to grow.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms in children are
- Change in urinary habits
- Increased frequency in urination
- Pain while urinating
- Overall abdominal pain
- Fever – low or high – with vomiting/shivering
- Foul-smelling urine
- Urine that is cloudy
- Crying during urination
- Low back pain
- Being irritable
Symptoms may vary from one child to another. At the first sign of any of the above symptoms, consult a peadiatrician. A urine test (culture) is often required to confirm infection.
Treatment and care
After confirming the infection, work with the doctor and find the cause. If the cause is not addressed, the infection will reoccur. Antibiotics are the main line of treatment here.
UTI in babies
Prenatal ultrasound scans are regularly done for a pregnant woman. Any underlying problem in the foetus’ kidney can be identified at this stage, for it might lead to UTI after the birth of the child. Any baby with symptoms such as fever, vomiting, discomfort and pain while passing urine, passing droplets of urine, etc., should be screened for UTI.
Urinary tract infection is a common problem in children. It is important to follow the advice of your paediatrician and treat it. Here’s what Dr V K Sairam, Paediatric Nephrologist, requests parents to do, “Help your children lead a healthy life – playing outdoors, getting good sunlight, eating well and cultivating good habits.”
Preventive and precautionary measures
- Children are always in a hurry; they don’t seem to have time for anything. So, parents should make sure that children urinate regularly.
- Some teachers don’t let the children take breaks during class hours. Schools should allow for periodic breaks, keeping the child’s health in mind. Parents should get the child into the practice of drinking enough water every day.
- Make sure the child consumes generous amounts of vegetables and fruits. This also makes them pass stools every day and avoid constipation.
- Teach girls to wipe front to back after a bowel movement. Cleaning from back to front would transfer germs from the anus to the urethra and lead to infections.
- Let children wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. Tight-fitting clothes will trap the moisture and cause bacteria to grow.
- Be sure to change your baby's diaper frequently; wearing a soiled diaper for long could result in an infection.