Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection in the urinary tract that can cause discomfort and complications in your child if left untreated. There are several more common types of UTIs:

  • Urethritis — an infection of the urethra

  • Cystitis — a bacterial infection in the bladder that often has moved up from the urethra

  • Pyelonephritis — a urinary infection of the kidneys that is usually a result of an infection that has spread up the tract, or from an obstruction in the urinary tract

Facts about UTIs in children

  • Urinary tract infections aren’t very common in children who are not yet toilet trained, so if your baby has one, it’s important to do further testing.
  • UTIs are more common in girls, because girls have a shorter urethra.
  • Uncircumcised boys are more likely to develop a UTI than circumcised boys.
  • Children with a complete or partial blockage in the urinary tract are more likely to develop UTI.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Each child is different. Some of the urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms your child may experience include the following:

Babies

  • fever
  • abdominal pain 
  • colic
  • abdominal fullness
  • foul-smelling urine
  • poor growth
  • weight loss or failure to gain weight
  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • poor feeding
  • diarrhea

Older children

  • urgency to urinate
  • incontinence during day and/or night
  • frequent urination
  • painful or difficult urination
  • discomfort above the pubic bone
  • blood in the urine
  • foul-smelling urine
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • fever
  • chills
  • pain in the back or side below the ribs
  • fatigue
  • small amount of urine while voiding despite feeling of urgency

What causes a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra, the hollow tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, and travel back into the bladder where they begin to multiply. Most infections arise from Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, which normally are found in the colon.

Care for UTIs

Boston Children’s Hospital UTI experts will work with you to ease your child’s discomfort and find a solution to the infection and any resulting complications. Our specialists diagnose, treat and care for infants, children and adolescents with issues affecting the urinary tract, bladder and kidneys. Explore UTI treatments