Dr Chong Siew Le, a nephrology consultant in the Department of Paediatrics at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, has details on Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and how it appears in babies and children.
• How does it look?
Symptoms include fever and pain in the flanks (sides), with or without symptoms of cystitis (which include painful, frequent urination, cloudy or bloody urine). However, in a very young patient, particularly before they can speak, the UTI symptoms can be very vague or nonspecific, such as fever without any other symptoms.
• What is it?
It is an infection that affects the urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. When it affects the bladder, it is called cystitis and when it affects the kidney, it is called pyelonephritis. Cystitis can give rise to painful and frequent urination, and the urge to urinate with or without lower abdominal pain. The urine may appear cloudy as a result of excessive white blood cells, or may appear red when there are excessive red blood cells in the urine.
• What causes a UTI?
Bacteria are the main cause of UTI, though occasionally, viruses can cause the infection. The great majority of the bacteria that cause UTI are usually gut organisms such as E coli.
• Is UTI common in children?
UTI is a common childhood illness, and worldwide, it has been reported to affect about 2 per cent of boys and 8 per cent of girls by the age of 7.
• How does one care for children with UTI?
UTI is easily treated with a course of antibiotics. As a proportion of children with UTI may have underlying abnormalities of the urinary tract that predispose them to the infection, doctors will recommend that children with UTI get regular follow-up checks.
• How does one prevent a UTI?
For young children who are not toilet-trained, parents are advised to change their soiled diaper as soon as possible, and to clean the perineum from the front to the back. For children who are toilet-trained, they are advised to empty their bladder at regular intervals. Children with a history of UTI should avoid constipation or seek treatment for their underlying constipation and lastly, ensure that they take all the medication prescribed by the treating physician to prevent recurrence of this infection.