Home > Babies and Toddlers > Health and Safety > Baby and Toddler Health Issues > Urinary Tract Infections in Infants
|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Urinary Tract Infections in Infants

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: What might be the cause of a urinary tract infection in a four-month-old girl? She was very sick with a fever of 105. They first thought it might be spinal meningitis and did a spinal tap. That came out OK. Ultrasound picked up the urinary infection.

A: In very young babies, the bacteria germs generally reach the urinary tract by the bloodstream. Older infants and children tend to get infections from bacteria reaching the bladder through the opening where urine comes out (urethra). Once the bacteria reach the bladder, they can cause varying degrees of inflammation and severity of disease. Although an infection begins in the bladder, the germs can then reach the kidneys by moving up (refluxing) toward them. Factors, such as the shape, form, and function of the urinary tract, also play a role in who is more likely to get an infection.

Making the diagnosis of a urinary tract infection (UTI) in young infants is not always easy. Infants do not express themselves in the same ways older children and adults do. They usually have non-specific symptoms, including unexplained fever (just like your four-month-old did), vomiting, irritability, and lethargy.

Collecting specimens of urine to study in the lab (urine culture) is at best difficult, since bag-collected specimens in girls do not give very reliable results. It is often necessary to use some invasive method like putting a small tube into the bladder through the urethra or directing a needle into the bladder from the outside and aspirating urine in this way.

Infections of the bladder and sometimes the kidneys are common in children. The prevalence of UTI in infants between two months and two years is as high as five percent and more common in girls. Having a high index of suspicion for a UTI in infants is important since this young age group is at highest risk for kidney damage from such an infection. Once the diagnosis is accurately made, the correct antibiotic can be used to treat the germ causing the infection and your infant can be properly evaluated and followed closely for recurrences.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Pin the Star on the Christmas Tree Game
Looking for a great Christmas game to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Star on the Christmas Tree game for loads of family fun!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!