Having a urinary tract infection is difficult for adults, but imagine how hard it is for a child. They don’t have the vocabulary and experience to express what they are going through, and this can frustrate them on top of the pain and discomfort. Children are somewhat predisposed to have UTIs for a number of reasons, but it may come as a surprise that there is a relationship between constipation in children and the occurrence of a UTI. In fact, this is one of the fastest ways for a child to get a UTI.
Urinary tract infections
Anyone can suffer from a UTI, and the symptoms are pretty common. However, they may be harder to identify in children, so it’s necessary to watch for other clues in a child’s or infant’s behavior to determine the potential for a UTI. In adults, the symptoms are easy to identify:
- Frequent and persistent urges to urinate, as well as sudden urges
- Pain and burning when peeing, and inability to completely empty the bladder
- Reduced urine output and thinner or slower stream of urine
- Pressure or pain in the back, sides, abdomen, or pelvis
- Blood in the urine, cloudy urine, or offensive smell to urine
- Low grade fever and lethargy, or severe fatigue
Young children aren’t able to express these symptoms in words, so it’s crucial to take note of behavioral changes. Signs of a UTI in infants might include:
- Crying when wetting their diaper
- Cloudy, foul smelling, or bloody urine
- Unexplained irritability
- Refusal to eat normally
- Fever reaching 100.4 F or higher
- Potential vomiting (not just spitting up)
In older children, other additional symptoms that may be expressed are:
- Frequent and intense urges to pee
- Incontinence and bed wetting after being toilet trained
- Belly and lower back pain
- Pain or burning during urination
Knowing the child’s patterns and habits and watching for changes can help determine early on if there is a problem so that treatment can be sought out and administered before there is great suffering.
Risk factors for UTIs in children
Specific risk factors for male children are:
- Being under six months of age
- Being Caucasian
- Being uncircumcised
- Bouts of severe diarrhea
For female children, increased risk factors include:
- Being under twelve months of age
- Being Caucasian
- Frequent diarrhea, as this can contaminate the urethra quickly
One risk factor, however, that is often overlooked in children, is the issue of constipation. If an infant or a young child becomes constipated, they could quickly develop a UTI. How is this so?
The relationship between constipation and UTIs
Constipation is the inability to excrete the stool that has gathered in the rectum and colon, causing a backup into the intestines. When a child is constipated, just like adult, this causes the organs to swell with the effort to hold in the stool. When that happens, these organs put pressure on the bladder and can even block the ability to empty the bladder. This obstruction causes urine to build up in the bladder, where bacteria can grow rampantly and lead to infection.
Treating and preventing UTIs in children
As with adults, the best course of action for treating a child or infant with a UTI is to see a physician, who will prescribe the proper antibiotics to clear up the bacteria causing the infection. Additionally, medication to bring down fever and lessen pain might also help.
Preventing an infection can save a lot of time and trouble as well. Some tips for helping children and infants avoid a UTI include:
- Properly training children to use the toilet. Many children will hold their urine longer than necessary to finish a task or keep playing, which can lead to a UTI.
- In addition, children must learn to relax pelvic floor muscles when urinating so that they can completely empty their bladders. This also requires teaching children patience in the restroom rather than rushing through the process.
- Teach children to wipe from front to back. This avoids dragging unwanted bacteria toward the urethra.
- Change infants’ diapers frequently. Sitting in a wet or dirty diaper, regardless of how well that diaper pulls the moisture away from the skin, creates a breeding ground for bacteria that could cause infection.
- If all precautions are taken and the child still has persistent or recurring UTIs, see a physician about a possible birth defect or abnormality in the urinary tract or pelvis that could be causing the problem, such as a blockage or a narrow urethra.