Mom holding Baby with fever

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection along the urinary tract. UTIs are the most frequently occurring serious bacterial infection in infants and young children and the number one reason infants present to the emergency room with a high fever.

What are the Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection?

Each child may experience symptoms differently and many symptoms of a UTI may resemble other conditions or medical problems. The following are the most common symptoms of a UTI:

UTI symptoms in babies

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal fullness
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Poor growth
  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Poor feeding
  • Diarrhea

UTI symptoms in  older children

  • Urgency to urinate
  • Incontinence during day and/or night
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Discomfort above the pubic bone
  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain in the back or side below the ribs
  • Fatigue
  • Small amounts of urine while voiding despite feeling of urgency

How are UTIs Diagnosed in Infants and Children?

Your child’s doctor may diagnose a urinary tract infection based on physical examination and a description of symptoms. Other studies may include a urinalysis (a laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein) and culture that will detect the presence of an infection.

What is the Treatment for a UTI in Children and Infants?

Specific treatment for a urinary tract infection will be determined by your child’s doctor and can be individualized to your child. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • A heating pad or medications (to relieve pain)
  • Increased fluid intake (especially water)

Although most UTIs are not serious problems, recurring UTIs may lead to kidney infections. Children are at greater risk for kidney infections, which may cause kidney scarring, poor kidney function, and other problems. Recurrent UTIs may also be a sign of urinary system abnormalities. If your child has an UTI a doctor should be consulted for treatment and to rule out any more serious issues.