If your child starts doing the not-so-discreet “gotta pee” dance, you might worry he’ll wet your carpet. But there’s something else you should know—your little one could end up with a urinary tract infection from waiting too long to go.
“A lot of kids tend to hold it because they are having fun and don’t want to stop,” says Dr. Jessica Goetz, D.O., assistant professor in the UT Health San Antonio’s Division of Pediatric Urology. “It’s like a swamp in the bladder, and bacteria is going to grow.”
She says kids should use the bathroom frequently, about every three to four hours, and that they shouldn’t rush. Not completely emptying their bladders can also put kids at risk.
Infants can get UTIs, too
It’s not just kids—babies under the age of 1 can get UTIs, too. At this age, boys have a higher risk compared with girls. Uncircumcised boys have a 10 times greater risk than those who are circumcised.
After infancy, girls have a higher chance of UTIs because of their anatomy: their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus, allowing bacteria to reach the bladder more easily than in boys.
Parents need to be keenly aware of UTI symptoms in babies, since infants can’t verbalize how they feel. Goetz says the signs will be subtle, such as an unexplainable fever, lethargy, irritability or not eating well.
Older children can describe symptoms, such as painful urination or pain in the lower abdomen. Parents might notice blood in the urine or see their child rushing to the bathroom, but only a little pee comes out. A potty-trained child with a UTI might have accidents.
Treating—and preventing—UTIs is (usually) simple
While surgery may be needed in the case of an anatomical problem, normally just a round of antibiotics will clear up the infection. It’s important to treat a UTI as soon as possible, before the child develops a fever, which indicates the infection has spread to the kidneys.
Teaching girls to wipe from front to rear can prevent the spread of germs, and all children will benefit from drinking plenty of water to flush the urinary system and using the bathroom frequently.
The University Children’s Health team of physicians and advanced-care providers at University Health System offers diagnostics and treatment for a variety of urological problems. Call 210-358-KIDS (5437) to schedule an appointment.