About urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen when bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra, get into urine and then grow in the bladder.

UTIs are quite common in babies and toddlers. About 4% of babies will have a UTI in the first 12 months. At this age, boys get more UTIs than girls.

Children who have abnormalities in the structure of their kidneys or urinary tract are more likely to get UTIs. But if your young child gets a UTI, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he has an abnormality of the urinary tract.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections in babies and toddlers

In babies and toddlers, the symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTIs) can look like the symptoms of many other health issues. If your child has a UTI, she might:

  • have an unexplained fever
  • be irritable and cry a lot
  • go off her feeds
  • vomit
  • be unusually drowsy
  • have poor weight gain
  • have a bloody nappy.

UTIs in older children are different from UTIs in babies and toddlers. If your older child has a urinary tract infection, it might sting when she wees, or she might feel she needs to wee a lot.

Does your child need to see a doctor about a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

Yes. You should take your child to the GP or go to a hospital emergency department straight away if your child has a high, unexplained fever or is generally unwell.

Tests for urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Doctors can’t diagnose a urinary tract infection (UTI) just on your child’s symptoms. They need to test your child’s urine as well.

Some children, particularly boys less than three months of age and children very unwell with their  UTI, need an ultrasound to make sure there are no problems in their urinary tracts. If a problem is identified, your child might be referred to a paediatrician, urologist or renal physician – that is, a doctor who specialises in kidney problems.

Treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Babies under three months usually need to have antibiotics directly into a vein through a drip to treat a urinary tract infection (UTI). This means they need to be treated in hospital.

Babies older than three months can sometimes be treated at home with antibiotics by mouth.

Your doctor will check your child’s urine again after treatment to make sure the infection has cleared up.

If there are any concerns about how your child’s urinary tract is working, your doctor might refer your child to a specialist for further advice and treatment.

Preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs)

You can’t prevent  urinary tract infections (UTIs) in babies and toddlers. And if your baby needs hospital treatment for a UTI, it can be quite upsetting. It might help to know that most babies and toddlers get over UTIs quickly and don’t need ongoing treatment.