When it comes to urinary tract infections (UTIs), we tend to think that women are most prone to it. But in reality, small children can also suffer from this type of infection.
Acute UTIs are relatively common in children, with 8 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys having at least one episode by age 7, according to a 2011 study published by American Family Physician.
The study also states that the most common pathogen is Escherichia coli (E. coli), accounting for approximately 85 percent of UTIs in children .
The infection occurs when the bacteria that enter the urethra aren’t expelled out of it, and they start growing within the urinary tract, in turn causing an infection. The two types of UTIs that may affect children are bladder infections and kidney infections.
UTIs occur more often in girls, particularly when toilet training begins. Also, uncircumcised boys below age 1 are at a higher risk of UTIs.
Other factors that can increase a child’s risk for a UTI include a structural deformity or blockage in one of the organs of the urinary tract, abnormal functioning of the urinary tract, some kind of a birth defect, use of bubbles in baths, tight-fitting clothes, poor bathroom habits, infrequent urination or delaying urination for long periods of time.
Infants and very young children may not show any symptoms when suffering from a UTI. However, in slightly older children, symptoms may include a fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability and a general feeling of illness.
It is important to treat UTIs in children without any delay to avoid any kind of complications.
While it is necessary to give your child the prescribed medications for as long as your physician advises, there are also certain home remedies and lifestyle tips to treat and prevent the infection in the future.
Note: For children below age 1, it is advisable to follow the advice of your doctor.
Here are the top 10 ways to treat and prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children.
1. Increase Fluid Intake
It is important to ensure that your child drinks plenty of fluids when dealing with a UTI. Drinking more liquids will help dilute the bacteria concentration and allow more effective “flushing out” of the harmful microbes.
- Give your child water to drink at regular intervals.
- In addition, you can give him or her milk, freshly extracted fruit or vegetable juice as well as homemade soup.
- Do not to give your child caffeinated or carbonated beverages, which can irritate the bladder.
2. Encourage Your Child to Go When Needed
Keeping a full bladder for a long time or resisting the urge to urinate can contribute to a UTI. It increases the risk of bacterial growth. It also increases pressure on the kidneys, which again is not good for your child’s health.
Encourage your child to urinate often and to empty his or her bladder each time. This will help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
If needed, set a reminder and tell your child to use the bathroom more often. Especially before going to bed, remind your child to use the bathroom.
3. Change the Diapers Frequently
To treat and prevent UTIs in younger children, it is important to change their diapers frequently. Not changing the diapers often leads to the spread of bacteria that cause UTIs.
Along with changing the diapers, it is important to clean your child’s genital area. Use gentle cleansers that do not irritate the skin.
A 2013 study published in the Indonesian Journal of Pediatrics and Perinatal Medicine found that a lower frequency of daily disposable diaper changing is significantly associated with a higher UTI incidence in children .
Also, the type of diaper you are using for your child can increase the risk of a UTI. A 2010 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pediatrics found that the use of superabsorbent diapers could be a risk factor for UTIs in infant girls .
Ask your doctor about the type of diaper that you can safely use for your child to reduce the risk of UTIs.
4. Provide Proper Toilet Training
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society advise starting the toilet training process when the child is 18 months of age and suggest that the child must be interested in the process .
So, once your child is 18 months old, it is time for some potty training. During potty training, be sure to teach your child about good hygiene.
Teach your child to wipe from front to rear, not from rear to front. This will help prevent germs from spreading from the rectum to the urethra.
Also, teach your child to continue wiping with fresh toilet paper until it comes out clean. They should also be taught how to flush the toilet and use the bidet, if you have one.
5. Give Probiotic Yogurt
Feeding your child a little probiotic yogurt every day is another preventive step for UTIs in children. Probiotic yogurt contains billions of friendly bacteria that help fight off infection-causing bacteria.
Regular intake of benign bacterial flora also helps maintain a healthy pH level and strengthens the immune system.
A 2013 study published in the Iranian Journal of Pediatrics found that the consumption of probiotics and antibiotics in children with recurrent UTIs is safe and more effective in reducing the incidence of febrile UTIs in comparison to prophylactic antibiotics alone .
- You can feed 1 cup of probiotic yogurt with live cultures to your child daily. You can also try a smoothie made with probiotic yogurt.
- Along with yogurt, you can give your child other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and sour pickles.
6. Avoid Bubble Baths
To reduce the risk of UTIs, particularly in girls, avoid giving them bubble baths. Bubble baths can allow bacteria and soap to enter the urethra and may also cause irritation.
A 2006 study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood reports that while there is little evidence to support the avoidance of bubble baths to prevent UTIs, bubble baths are an irritant to a child’s urinary tract .
For small children, showers are better than baths. Always supervise small children when they take a shower.
7. Drink Cranberry Juice
Unsweetened cranberry juice is another very good natural remedy for UTIs in children.
Cranberries work by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract, thus preventing infection.
A 2012 study by the Canadian Family Physician reports that while cranberry juice is very safe for most children, its acidity reduces palatability among children. The proper dose of cranberry juice to prevent UTIs in children has also yet to be determined .
A 2011 Brazilian study found that cranberry may be a possible valid alternative to traditional antibiotic prophylaxis, which today is under strong attack .
- Give your child 8 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice a day.
- If your child doesn’t like cranberry juice, you can try cranberry juice concentrate in tablet form.
8. Increase Vitamin C Intake
Increasing your child’s intake of vitamin C could protect against UTIs.
Vitamin C is effective, as it increases the acidity of the urine, thereby killing the bacteria that cause the infection. Moreover, vitamin C is good for your child’s immunity.
- Including more fruits and vegetables that are especially high in vitamin C in your child’s diet is a good way to increase intake. Some good choices include red peppers, oranges, grapefruit and kiwis.
- You can also consult your doctor about giving your child a vitamin C supplement.
9. Avoid Constipation
Hard stools can press against the urinary tract and block the flow of urine, allowing bacteria to grow. Hence, it is important to help your child have regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
To avoid constipation in children, include high-fiber foods in their diet. Fiber helps soften the stools by drawing water into them, making them bulkier and easier to pass.
- Give your child high-fiber foods, such as broccoli, pears, peaches, peas or skinless apples. You can feed these pureed or boiled.
- You can also give children cooked grains like barley, oats or quinoa.
10. Choose the Right Clothes
The clothes you choose for your child also play a key role in reducing the risk of UTIs.
It is important to choose cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes, so that air can circulate and keep the area around the urethra dry.
Avoid dressing your child in tight jeans and other tight-fitting pants that trap heat and moisture. Dress them in loose pants or skirts to promote air circulation and reduce the chances of bacterial growth.
Make sure to change your child’s underwear daily. Wash their underwear in hot water using a mild detergent. Also, do not leave your child in a wet swimsuit for an extended period of time.
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in Children. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/0215/p409.html. Published February 15, 2011.
- Association between the frequency of disposable diaper changing and urinary tract infection in children. Paediatrica Indonesiana. https://paediatricaindonesiana.org/index.php/paediatrica-indonesiana/article/view/254.
- Diaper Type as a Risk Factor in Urinary Tract Infection of Children. Iranian Journal of Pediatrics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3446007/. Published March 2010.
- Toilet training children: when to start and how to train. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307553/. Published March 20, 2012
- Combination of Probiotics and Antibiotics in the Backention of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection in Children. Iranian Journal of Pediatrics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883373/. Published August 2013.
- Should bubble baths be avoided in children with urinary tract infections? Archives of Disease in Childhood. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2066009/. Published October 2006.
- Cranberry juice for urinary tract infection in children. Canadian Family Physician. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3325451/. Published April 2012.
- Cranberry in children: prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections and review of the literature. Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0102-695X201100050000.