How can you tell if that’s what is behind your child’s discomfort and help them get relief? Jenna Brand, urology nurse practitioner, offers some helpful insight.
What is a UTI?
UTIs are caused by an abnormal growth of bacteria in the urinary system. If bacteria from the skin or rectal area gets into the urinary tract, it can multiply quickly and cause infection in the bladder (called cystitis) or kidney (pyelonephritis).
Dysfunctional elimination patterns are the most common cause of bladder infections in kids – meaning they’ve developed an irregular or less than ideal pattern of urinating. Some children may go very frequently throughout the day and show signs of urgency and posturing behaviors, like a “potty dance.” Others may hold their urine or stool for a long period of time. Either situation can lead to infection or other bothersome symptoms.
If you’re noticing one of these patterns, keep an eye out for other common signs of a bladder infection:
- Burning or pain with urination
- Strong urine odor
- Wetting accidents during the day or night
The backward flow of urine into the kidney (vesicoureteral reflux) and blockage of urine flow are the most common causes of kidney infections, which can be more serious than bladder infections.
Kidney infections are often signaled by:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Back pain
Testing and diagnosis
A urine culture is the only way to officially diagnose a UTI. Depending on symptoms and severity of infection, further testing and imaging may be done to look for any associated causes or concerns.
Treatment and prevention of UTIs
Antibiotics are necessary to clear the bacteria and treat UTIs – they won’t just get better on their own. Drinking plenty of fluids and urinating often to keep the bladder empty may also help relieve symptoms.
It’s also important to determine the underlying cause of UTIs so they don’t continue to occur. A detailed elimination history can help us identify factors that contribute to UTIs and guide strategies to prevent them from happening again.
These may include:
- Timed emptying of the bladder
- Strategies to improve bladder patterns
- Biofeedback (learning to relax the pelvic floor muscles)
- Bowel programs to prevent constipation
Sometimes, surgery or procedures to empty the bladder are helpful, but usually we can treat and prevent infections with less invasive approaches.