advice

a wee problem:
urinary tract infections in babies and toddlers

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are common among babies and young children. They’re not normally serious, but can cause your little one a bit of discomfort, especially if it hurts when they wee. Fortunately, UTIs normally clear up really quickly with diagnosis and treatment.

what is a baby UTI?

There are two main types of UTI. An upper UTI is an infection of the kidneys or ureters (the connecting tubes between the bladder and kidneys). A lower UTI is an infection of the bladder or urethra (the tube that whisks urine out of the bladder). A bladder infection is sometimes called cystitis. UTIs are more common among little girls than boys, with 1 in 10 toddler girls developing one at some point. Always take your child to the GP if you suspect a UTI, as problems could develop if it’s left untreated.


what causes UTIs in young children?

Usually, UTIs in children are caused by bacteria from their bottoms getting into the urethra. With babies, this can sometimes happen when their nappies are being changed – we all know how hard it is to wipe a wriggling little one on a changing mat, and sometimes tiny bits of poo can end up in the wrong place. With older children, it can happen if they wipe from back to front. And some children hold onto their wee too long, which can also lead to UTIs. 


what are the signs of a UTI?

If your little one has a UTI, they’re likely to show the usual signs of being under the weather. These include fever, tiredness, not eating well and vomiting. Specific UTI symptoms are mainly wee-related, so check their nappy or potty for signs. Their wee could be cloudy, smell unpleasant or be a bit bloody. If your little one is able to, they may tell you that it’s painful to use the potty, and babies may cry while they pee. Some children try to hold it in. They could also have tummy or lower back pain.


how are UTIs treated?

If you suspect your little one has a UTI, your GP will run a urine test. Your child will be given a course of antibiotics and the infection should start to clear up super quickly. Very young babies and children with more serious symptoms may need to go to hospital – there's a rare condition that causes urine to leak from the bladder to the kidneys. The doctor will be looking out for this if your child has recurring UTIs.


can UTIs be prevented?

There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of UTIs. Breastfeeding babies helps to reduce the risk of constipation, which means they’re less likely to develop a UTI. Make sure your child gets plenty to drink to prevent dehydration and constipation. Keep their bits healthy by encouraging front to back wiping, choosing cotton underwear, regularly changing nappies and avoiding scented soaps and bubble baths. If they’re holding in their wee, is it because they’re sore or some specific toddler concern such as not liking the potty?