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Bladder Infection in Young Child
Q: How common are bladder infections in an 18-month-old female? What are some ways to prevent this type of infection?
A: Bladder infections (urinary tract infections) are not rare in young children. They can cause fever, vomiting, painful urination, and other symptoms. Most urine infections are caused by bacteria that are in the stool. Overall, girls have them more often than boys, most likely because the urethra (the tube that goes from the bladder to the outside) is so much shorter in girls.
It is important to follow up carefully once a child has had a urine infection, as repeated urine infections can cause damage to the kidneys. Most children who have a bladder infection are fine and have no underlying problem. Some children may have urinary reflux, in which the urine in the bladder backs up toward the kidney up the ureter when the child urinates. This makes a child more likely to have urinary infections. Children who have reflux usually take antibiotics on a regular basis in order to prevent further infections. They usually outgrow the reflux as they get older.
For children who are normal, good hygiene and drinking fluids regularly are the best preventive measures. For girls, always make sure that they are wiped from front to back (Meaning start where the urine comes out and wipe the cloth back to where the stool comes out). Don't wipe over the front again with the same cloth.
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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.