Urinary Tract Infections: Signs and Treatments for Adolescents and Teens
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common in children and teens. Many factors can cause a UTI and the infection can impact every child differently. Pediatric gynecologist Shanna M. Combs, M.D., FACOG, and Hannah Chong, M.D., FAAP, a pediatrician with Cook Children’s Pediatrics Flower Mound, address commonly asked questions about UTI’s and treatment.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract or the bladder.
What are the symptoms?
Fever is the number one symptom. Parents and older children should also be looking out for a different smell or color change when urinating. In school-aged children and teens, they may complain that it hurts when they go to the bathroom. Older children may experience fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, or even back pain. Teens may also notice they are urinating more frequently and may have a burning sensation when they go to the bathroom.
Can you get a UTI without having underlying issues?
Yes. Drs. Combs and Chong both agree it’s common for girls to get a UTI without underlying medical issues. If proper hygiene is followed, they believe UTIs often happen because of female anatomy and how close everything is in that specific area.
Are UTIs treatable?
Yes, UTIs are treatable with antibiotics. If a UTI festers for a long period, it can cause a more severe infection that may have to be treated with IV antibiotics as opposed to oral.
Are boys or girls more susceptible to the infection?
Girls are more likely to get a UTI because bacteria from the outside of the body can get inside the urethra, which is shorter in girls. In younger girls who are still in diapers, UTIs can happen if they have excessive diarrhea. Older girls can contract UTI’s from not wiping front to back, or practicing poor hygiene. The highest risk for a UTI is in girls, followed by uncircumcised boys, and then boys who are circumcised.
What advice would you give to parents?
Dr. Chong: Adequate fluid intake is important to help flush things out. For younger children, ensure that you’re teaching them how to wipe properly from front to back and do not allow them to sit and play in dirty bathwater for too long as that can cause irritation and lead to symptoms that can look like a UTI.
Dr. Combs: Stay hydrated as we begin to hit the summer months. Be sure to take a shower and change clothes or change out of any sweaty clothes if you’re not taking a shower. Moisture affects bladder health and female health.
Important to note:
UTI’s have similar symptoms to sexually transmitted infections (STI) such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. If your child is sexually active, you may want to get them checked out for a UTI and STIs.