Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be common for many children. They occur when bacteria travel into the urethra (i.e., the tube that connects to the bladder) and multiply. Children, and in particular girls, have shorter urethras which make it easier for bacteria to travel through and attach to the bladder. Normally, urine is sterile, meaning it does not contain any bacteria. However, bacteria from the anus can find their way into the urethra and cause a UTI—the bacteria E. coli is most often the cause of urinary tract infections.
Depending on your child’s age, it may be difficult to tell when a UTI has developed. Usually, the bacteria will cause swelling and irritation in the bladder and urethra. This leads to the following symptoms:
» Belly pain
» Pain and/or burning with urination
» Having to pee frequently (sometimes it’s just a few drops)
» Foul-smelling urine
» Cloudiness or blood in the urine
» Back pain (this can be an indication of a more severe
infection) In babies, symptoms of a UTI are similar to those of other infections, including fussiness, crying, and fever. Babies may also experience blood in the urine.
If your child suffers from chronic UTIs, prevention is key to breaking the cycle; good hygiene especially for females is vital.
Top 4 UTI Prevention Tips
- Do not use any soap in and around the urethra and vulva for females; water alone is best for cleaning. Do not use any harsh or fragranced soaps for males.
- After using the washroom, females should wipe from front to back (not back to front). This will prevent the spread of E. coli to the urethra.
- Wear breathable underwear, preferably cotton.
- Do not hold your pee - holding it can allow bacteria to more easily grow within the bladder.
Diet also plays a role in the prevention of UTIs. Studies show that no particular diet causes UTIs on its own, but certain foods can affect the health and environment of the bladder, making it more susceptible to UTIs.
Food and beverages linked to an increase in UTIs:
» Sugary beverages
» Meat (particularly poultry and pork) can increase the acidity
of the bladder, which provides a better environment for bacteria to grow
Bladder irritants to avoid during an infection:
» Coffee and tea
» Artificially-sweetened beverages
» Carbonated beverages
Bladder irritants are not linked directly to an increase in UTIs, but they can increase discomfort and even cause symptoms similar to a UTI.
Cutting out certain foods can be difficult, especially with your little ones. The great news is that you can also add food and drinks to their diet to help in prevention.
Foods That Help
- Water - This should be the main source of hydration for our little ones.
- Breastfeeding - Studies show that breastfed infants have a 50 percent lower risk of developing UTIs compared to non-breastfed infants.
- Unsweetened 100% cranberry juice - Cranberries contain certain molecules that block bacteria from being able to attach to the bladder and urethra, which reduces the risk of developing a UTI by 20 percent.5 Try sweetening it yourself with a little bit of honey or maple syrup, and dilute it with water to make it more palatable.
- Freshly-squeezed berry juice - Just like cranberries, other berries (like blueberries) contain the same molecules that prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder.
- Fibre - People who consume high-fibre diets, which improve constipation, are less likely to develop a UTI. This is partially because constipation increases the risk of UTIs. Examples of fibrous foods include apples, berries, avocados, broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes, lentils, chia seeds, flax seeds, chickpeas, and brown rice.
If you suspect your child has a UTI, please consult a medical professional immediately. Getting treatment as soon as possible will help minimize the severity of the infection. Your doctor may diagnose a UTI by assessing symptoms and testing a urine sample for bacteria.
If it turns out your child has a UTI, the best course of action is to consult your family doctor, pediatrician, or a walk-in clinic to assess the need for antibiotics. The prompt introduction of antibiotics will allow for clearance of the bacteria from the bladder before the infection spreads further down the urinary tract. In addition, drinking lots of water can help flush the bacteria out of the bladder.If you are concerned about the side effects of antibiotics, these can be addressed with a visit to your medical or naturopathic doctor. The most common side effects are loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and allergic skin reactions.You may consider adding a probiotic to help mitigate these side effects.
- Probiotics - Lactobacilli-type probiotics are dominant in the bladder. Studies show that taking probiotics can reduce recurrent UTIs by 80 percent.
- D-Mannose - This is a sugar that is derived from cranberries. As mentioned previously, cranberries contain molecules that prevent bacteria from flourishing in the bladder.
- Fibre - A fibre supplement might be a good work-around if you have a picky eater.
Always consult a healthcare practitioner before starting or changing any supplement or medication. The type, form, and dose matter, so getting guidance is always suggested.
UTIs in children should be addressed as quickly as possible to prevent the infection from worsening. It may be best to use an antibiotic to clear the infection, but there are lots of other strategies to be used to prevent recurrence and ensure a healthy bladder and urinary tract.