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22.12.2019 Health & Fitness

Young children under the age of 5 are at the risk of urinary tract infections

By Dr Antony Robert Charles
A medical illustration of the kidneys ureters bladder and urethra with E. coli in the background and a young girl holding her belly and looking distressed illustrating UTIs in children originalA medical illustration of the kidneys ureters bladder and urethra with E. coli in the background and a young girl holding her belly and looking distressed illustrating UTIs in children original
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Young children are as sensitive as they are carefree which leave them susceptible ta number of infections and health concerns that demand special care and attention constantly. In the initial few years of their life, kids generally tend tcatch a lot of bugs. Cold and other infections hence become extremely common among them. One of the most severe infections that can be happen tkids is that of urinary tract infection (UTI). While it is mostly believed that UTI occurs only in adults, it has been reported that up t8% of girls and 2% of boys get a UTI by the age of 5 years.

The urinary tract of the body includes the bladder and kidneys along with the tubes that connect them. When germs find a way intthe urinary tract, infection is caused. In kids, UTI usually occurs when bacteria from their skin or poop enter the urinary tract and multiply. Girls are more likely tget UTI as their urethra is shorter, which makes it easier for the bacteria from the anus teasily enter the vagina and urethra. In the case of boys, those whare not circumcised have a slightly higher risk of UTIs. Children with a problem called reflux (vesicoureteral reflux or VUR) are more at the risk of infections. At times some children are even born with this problem or other birth defects of the urinary system that lead treflux.

Some children are more likely tget UTIs if they already have some problem with their bladder or kidneys. Urine flow tends tblock and germs get a chance tmultiply due tthe narrowing in the urinary tract.

What enhances the trouble is that the symptoms of this infection are hard tnotice in kids. However, it is very crucial that the child receives adequate treatment on time before the UTI transforms inta more serious kidney infection.

If the UTI happens in older kids, the symptoms are mostly clear. The main symptoms being:

  • Lower belly pain
  • Back or side pain
  • An urgent need tpee or frequent peeing
  • Some kids alslose control over their bladder, and may wet the bed
  • Drops of blood might alsbe seen in the urine, or the urine is pink

However when it comes tyounger children, very careful attention and observation is required ttake note of these symptoms. When it comes tinfants, the symptoms are likely tbe more general including:

  • Fever
  • Fussiness
  • Little interest in food

Other UTI symptoms are:

  • Burning or pain when your child pees
  • Foul-smelling or cloudy pee
  • An urgent need tgo, and then only peeing a few drops
  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The major cause as explained above for UTI is the entering of a bacteria intthe bladder. These bacteria can be commonly found on the skin around the anus and/or near the vagina. Usually, bacteria are not there in the urinary tract but some of the following things facilitate the entry of the bacteria and their stay:

  • A problem in the urinary tract called vesicoureteral reflux which is mostly present at birth allows urine tflow back up intthe ureters and kidneys
  • Neurological conditions like spinal deformities may make it difficult for the bladder tfill and empty in proper fashion
  • Birth defects or changes in the structure of the urinary tract
  • Not enough and frequent urination during the day
  • After using the bathroom, wiping from back (near the anus) tfront in girls can bring bacteria tthe opening where the urine comes out

As applicable for most life situations, prevention certainly is better than the cure in case of UTIs tensure that your kids are not caught by these infections. Some of the preventive measures that can be adopted include:

  • Hygiene is the most basic and most essential habit that must be inculcated in the child. Hygiene, both personal (of one’s intimate areas) as well as of the washrooms and surroundings are equally important.
  • Parents must make sure that their children are not exposed tunclean washrooms and are well versed with their cleanliness practice.
  • Regularly changing the diapers of the baby is alssomething that parents should keep in mind tprevent bacteria from growing.
  • Girls must be instructed twipe from front tback tprevent bacteria in poop from getting intthe vagina and urinary tract.
  • Kids should be encouraged tgtthe bathroom as soon as they feel the urge and not thold it in.
  • Bubble baths should be ideally avoided especially girls and perfumed soaps should not be used.
  • Timprove airflow and prevent bacteria from growing, cotton underwear and not nylon ones should be preferred.
  • Kids must be encouraged tdrink lots of water which would help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Good intake of fiber in the form of vegetables and fruits prevents constipation. Constipation itself is a risk factor in causing UTI.

Contributed by Dr Antony Robert Charles, Consultant Paediatric Surgery, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal

Health & Fitness