Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Infants & Children

What is a UTI?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are an illness of the kidneys or bladder caused by a germ. UTIs happen when germs enter the bladder or the kidneys. UTIs are easily treated but can cause problems if left alone.

A risk factor is something that increases your chance for getting an illness. These things can increase your child’s chance of getting a UTI:

  • Not going to the bathroom often enough (in toilet trained kids)
  • Using things that can bother the place where urine comes out (such as bubble bath)
  • Infant boys who are not circumcised
  • When urine flows backwards from the bladder up into the kidneys, called vesicoureteral (VES-ih-ko-yu-REE-ter-ul) reflux. This can happen because parts of the urinary tract are not normal.
  • Blockage: where a blockage limits or stops urine flow
  • Fever (may be the only symptom in babies)
  • Being fussy (in babies)
  • Throwing up (babies or older children)
  • Feeling the need to use the bathroom often (older children)
  • Pain or burning with peeing (older children)
  • Lower belly or back pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Potty trained children wetting themselves

Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and past health. They will do a physical exam. Tests will include:  

  • Urinalysis: a study of a urine sample
  • Urine culture: detects germs in urine

Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for your child. Treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics: Medicines that kill germs and will help clear up the infection
  • Fluids: Drink plenty of fluids. Offer fluids so that your child continues to pee regularly.

The doctor may want to see how your child’s urinary tract looks by doing a test.

  • Ultrasound of kidneys and bladder: Picture to see the kidneys, bladder, and the tubes between them
  • Voiding cystourethrogram (sis-toe-u-reeth-ro-gram) or VCUG:  X-ray picture to see how the bladder is working

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made suggestions for how doctors should treat the first UTI in children aged 2-24 months. They recommend these children have an ultrasound.  A VCUG is advised ONLY if there is a problem seen on the ultrasound.

  • Give your child lots of fluids to drink. Offer fluids so that your child continues to pee regularly.
  • Give your child all the medicine the doctor gave you for the infection. Do not stop the medicine, even if your child is feeling and acting better.
  • Tell your doctor if your child’s symptoms continue, such as fever. 
  • Take medicines for pain or fever only as directed by your doctor. Do not give aspirin to children. 
  • Keep all follow-up appointments.
  • Do not use bubble bath, shampoo, or soaps in your child’s bathwater.
  • Encourage your toilet-trained child to use the bathroom every 2-3 hours.
  • UTIs can happen again in some children. Your doctor needs to diagnose and treat UTIs to prevent more problems.
  • Call your doctor right away if you think your child is showing signs of a UTI.
  • Let your doctor know if your child has a fever without a clear cause. More testing may also be needed if there are further UTIs.  

Seek care or call your doctor if:

  • Your baby is 3 months old or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4⁰F or more

Last Updated 02/2012