Signs Your Child Has a Bladder Infection – and How to Treat It

Urinary tract infections can impact children as early as infancy – and well into adulthood, says Dr. Neethi Patel of Shelby Pediatric Associates and Child Lung Center. Here’s what to look for and advice on treatment.

A child who is busy building with blocks doesn’t always want to stop for a potty break. But if your kid has turned holding their urine into an Olympic sport, she could be setting herself up for developing a urinary tract infection.

Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, occur in the bladder and urethra – and, in more serious cases, in the kidneys and ureter. They are common in adults – mainly women – and are more common among young girls than boys. While UTIs are treatable, they can cause discomfort and frustration to young patients – and could even be a sign of an underlying issue for infants, says Dr. Neethi Patel, a pediatrician with Shelby Pediatric Associates and Child Lung Center.

When it comes to UTIs, what are the signs parents should look out for in infants and children? Read on for more information, along with treatment and prevention tips.

Signs of a UTI

UTIs shows up in different ways depending on the age of the child but unlike adults, “kids that have a UTI oftentimes present with a fever,” Dr. Patel notes. “More often than not, children will complain of feeling ill when they have a urinary tract infection.”

For kids who are potty trained and those who are school-aged, they may complain of pain when they are urinating, peeing more often or feeling they have to urinate but nothing comes out when they try to go to the bathroom. “Those kinds of symptoms that we see more in adults tend to happen more in older children,” she says.

Holding in pee, poor wiping and incorrect hygiene are among the reasons children contract UTIs.

But for infants, developing a UTI could be a sign of something more serious.

“We worry about an anatomic abnormality that might make them more prone to having a urinary tract infection,” Dr. Patel explains.

Abnormalities include disorders of the bladder and kidneys due to not being formed correctly in utero that can cause the urine to build up.

“So that’s why when they are less than a year, a urinary tract infection can just present with a fever and if they have it, then you need to see their doctor because they need to confirm that you have a UTI,” she adds.

If the child does have an infection, further testing may be needed to evaluate their anatomy.

Treatment and prevention

If you suspect your child has a UTI, call her pediatrician to make an appointment to have the urine checked. If an infection is present, your child’s pediatrician should provide an antibiotic, which typically lasts seven to 10 days. A culture is done as a follow-up to make sure the infection is clearing up.

When it comes to avoiding UTIs, children who are potty trained or older should avoid holding their urine.

“They don’t want to stop doing what they are doing to go to the bathroom. We jokingly call it ‘busy little kid syndrome,’” she says. “They are learning that they can hold it so they abuse that power of holding it.

It’s a big no-no for kids, since it can lead to urinary retention and the urine staying in the bladder longer than it should. Once that happens, a UTI can occur.

In order to avoid this, Dr. Patel suggests scheduling regular breaks for children to empty their bladders.

“It’s important to build a time into their day when they go to the bathroom – both poop and pee, because having constipation can be a huge trigger for urinary tract infections,” she says. “If you’re holding one, you’re usually holding the other.”

For more information on Shelby Pediatric Associates and Child Lung Center, visit


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