How are UTIs in Children Diagnosed and Treated?

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, don't just affect adults. As many as 8 in 100 girls and 2 in 100 boys get UTIs. Young children have a greater risk of developing kidney damage from a UTI than do older children or adults, even when treated with the right antibiotic therapy.

For younger children, symptoms may involve a fever, loss of appetite, fatigue or vomiting. Signs of an infection may include a strong-smelling or abnormally dark urine. Older children may complain of pain in the low stomach area or back. They may have pain when they urinate, or feel the need to urinate often.

Your child's health care provider will diagnose a UTI through a urine sample and a urine culture. As with adults, UTIs in children are treated with antibiotics. For most UTIs, antibiotics are given by mouth, as a liquid or a pill. If your child is very ill, the antibiotic may be given as shots in your practitioner's office or acute care setting. Your child's health care provider will choose a drug that treats the bacteria most likely to be causing the problem.

In some cases, after the provider has received the results of the urine culture, often 24-48 hours later, he or she may change the antibiotic to one that works better against the type of bacteria found in your child's urine.

To help fight the infection, encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids and not hold their urine. Your child may appear better after only a few doses of the antibiotic, but it's important to take the medication for the full length of the prescription. If UTIs are not fully treated, they may return, or your child may get another infection.

Robert Mevorach, MD, is a pediatric urologist with Nemours Children's Specialty Care in Pensacola, Fla.