Why Does My Child Keep Getting a UTI   

Why Does My Child Keep Getting a UTI

Little girl sitting on the potty in the bathroom, holding a roll of toilet paper.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Kristin A Kozakowski, M.D.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common ailment in young children, particularly in girls. For most kids, UTIs do not return after they are treated. But for some, UTIs can be recurrent. 

“Recurrent UTIs can pose long-term risks, such as scarring on the kidneys, so if your child has recurrent UTIs—two or more infections—it’s important to identify the cause with your doctor,” says pediatric urologist, Kristin A. Kozakowski, M.D. 

Symptoms of UTIs in Kids

UTIs occur when bacteria gets into the bladder or kidneys. Common signs of UTIs in kids may include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen or back
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Frequent urination (even though only a small amount of urine is passed)
  • Fever
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Bedwetting or accidents
  • Cloudy or bloody urine

“Keep in mind that symptoms alone can’t diagnose a UTI,” says Dr. Kozakowski. “Your child’s doctor will need to confirm the diagnosis with a urine test.”

Why UTIs Might Recur

Dr. Kozakowski outlines a few reasons why a child might experience recurrent UTIs:

Irregular Urination: Regular urination helps flush away bacteria, while holding urine for too long can help bacteria grow. “So if your child doesn’t drink enough liquid, they may not make enough urine to flush out bacteria,” Dr. Kozakowski says. “That increases the risk of recurrent UTIs.”

Urine Reflux: Some children are born with urine reflux, a condition in which urine flows back into the kidneys. This puts them at greater risk for UTIs as well as other kidney infections. “Urologists can confirm reflux using an x-ray called a VCUG,” Dr. Kozakowski says. “But often, reflux improves or resolves itself over time as kids grow.”

Urinary Tract Abnormalities: Sometimes, bladder or kidney problems, such as partial blockages and kidney stones, can contribute to recurrent UTIs. “If your doctor suspects a bladder or kidney abnormality, they might use an ultrasound to confirm diagnosis,” says Dr. Kozakowski. “Many of these issues are correctable, though.”

Five Ways to Prevent UTIs in Kids

Parents can help their children reduce their risk of getting a UTI. Dr. Kozakowski recommended these five tips:

  1. Encourage your child to go to the bathroom as soon as they feel the urge; don’t hold it.
  2. Make sure your child gets plenty of liquids every day—6–8 glasses a day.
  3. Use gentle soaps, avoiding any bath products with harsh chemicals and strong fragrances and dyes.
  4. Dress your child in cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothing.
  5. Teach your child—especially girls—to wipe properly: front to back. 

“If you are concerned that your child has a UTI, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician right away,” says Dr. Kozakowski. “It’s best not to wait so that they can be treated sooner than later.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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