How do you know if a child has a UTI?

Written by: Dr Avanish Tantry
Edited by: Conor Lynch

UTIs in children is the topic up for discussion today in one of our latest medical articles. Below, highly qualified consultant paediatrician, Dr Avanish Tantry, outlines the most common symptoms associated with UTIs in children, and tells us why treating UTIs is crucial. 

How do you know if a child has a UTI?

Urine infections can present in various ways in children. In the young babies, symptoms can include fever, being unsettled, feeling sleepy, vomiting, or diarrhoea. Older children may also complain of pain while passing urine or may start going to the toilet more frequently, or start bed wetting. Any child that has a fever that is unexplained needs to be tested for a urine infection.


What’s the most common cause for UTI in children?

Constipation and poor toilet hygiene, or poor urinary voiding (that is, being in a hurry and not emptying the bladder completely when going to the toilet) are common causes. Children can often be very busy and in a hurry so it is important to train them to make sure they do not hurry and empty their bladder fully when they go to the toilet. 


For girls, it is important they make sure they wipe from front to back and keep the genital areas clean. Urine infections may happen in children without an underlying cause and sometimes children may have underlying problems with their kidneys and urinary system that may predispose them to develop a UTI.


How long do UTIs last in children?

Sometimes, a mild urine infection might get better on it’s own as the body’s immune cells fight it. More commonly, urine infections need treatment with antibiotics. Symptoms should then get better within 48 hours. 


Sometimes, infections can be severe and oral antibiotics might not be sufficient to treat it and children may have to be admitted to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics. The duration of illness also depends on which bug has caused the infection, and if the bug is resistant to a lot of the commonly used antibiotics. In this case, it may take longer for the infection to respond. 


How are UTIs in children treated?

UTIs are usually treated with oral antibiotics and most children will get better with this. When the infection is more severe or has been left undiagnosed for a few days, children might need intravenous antibiotics. However, once they start to improve, they can usually be switched to an appropriate oral antibiotic and discharged from hospital.


Can a UTI in children go away on its own? What can happen if a UTI is left untreated?

Mild infections can spontaneously improve, but antibiotics are usually needed. If a UTI is left untreated it can lead to complications. 


The infection might get more severe and cause a pus collection around the kidneys. It can spill over into the blood and cause sepsis. It can also damage the kidneys and cause a scar on them, which can then potentially cause kidney problems and other issues like high blood pressure later on in life. It is therefore important to identify urine infections early and treat them promptly. 


Dr Avanish Tantry is a highly accomplished consultant paediatrician. If you are worried that your son or daughter may potentially be suffering from a UTI, make sure you contact Dr Tantry today to book an appointment with him.

By Dr Avanish Tantry

Dr Avanish Tantry is a leading consultant in paediatric medicine in Leeds who specialises in newborn/infant problems, chest problems and abdominal problems alongside growth issues, headaches and kidney/urine infections. He is available for e-consultations, privately practises at Nuffield Health Hospital, Leeds and his NHS base is the Leeds Children's Hospital.

Leeds Children's Hospital is one of the largest and busiest children's hospitals in the UK, and Dr Tantry sees in excess of 50,000 children per year. He is also the current clinical lead for the general paediatric department. He has over 22 years of experience in the field of general paediatrics and looks after children with a large variety of problems and illnesses.

Dr Tantry obtained his primary medical qualification in India and went on to complete postgraduate studies in paediatrics at one of the busiest children's hospitals in India, which gave him a wealth of experience and skills in dealing with childhood illnesses. After finishing his studies in India, Dr Tantry continued his training in the UK and has worked in some of the busiest children's hospitals in the country, including Birmingham and Leeds.

His qualifications are MBBS, MD paediatrics, FRCPCH and MSc in Child Health. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatricians.

He has been working as a consultant in Leeds since 2013 and has developed extensive skills and experience in managing a wide variety of childhood illnesses like recurrent wheeze, asthma, abdominal pains, constipation/diarrhoea, headaches, reflux, cow's milk intolerance/allergy, heart murmurs, chest problems, growth issues and newborn problems, to name just a few.

He has a special interest in secondary paediatric nephrology which is a paediatric sub-speciality dealing with common kidney problems in children e.g. recurrent urine infections, nephrotic syndrome, urinary frequency/urgency, etcetera. Dr Tantry currently also runs the Long Covid Service for children in Leeds, which he successfully helped to set up and which currently sees several children every month, helping them with their recovery and rehabilitation.

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