Chemical Urethritis (Child)

Your childhas urethritis. This happens when the urethra becomes inflamed. The urethra is the tube that drains urine out of the body.

Depending on your child's age, it can be hard to figure out what is bothering them. You may need to ask the same question in different ways to figure it out. Often the symptoms may seem like a bladder infection or UTI. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or burning in the urethra, when urinating or not. (In a girl, the urethra is the opening above the vagina. In a boy, the urethra is the opening on the tip of the penis.)

  • Pain in a girl's vagina or a boy's penis

  • Feeling the need to urinate often

  • Not wanting to urinate, which can cause your child to urinate on himself or herself

  • Not wanting to drink because he or she will have to urinate

  • Lower belly (abdominal) pressure or pain

Urethritis has both infectious and non-infectious causes. In children, the condition is often from chemical irritation, not an infection. Your child was not found to have an infection.

  • Often, chemicals such as soap, bubble baths, or skin lotions that get inside the urethra cause the irritation. Symptoms often go away within 3 days after the last exposure.

  • Injury (can be accidental)

  • Allergic reaction

  • A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause similar symptoms.

Home care

Follow these guidelines to help care for your child at home:

  • Washing the genitals gently with a washcloth and soapy water should not cause a problem. Be careful so that soap does not get inside the urethra. Don't rub too hard or too much. This can irritate it more.

  • If you believe bubble bath was the cause of urethritis, don't do any bubble baths. You can still try baths, but don't have your child soak in the tub with soap or shampoo in the water. Save this until the end.

  • Stop any new lotions or soaps until the urethritis clears up.

  • Soaking in warm water without soap for about 10 minutes can help ease pain. Repeat as needed.

  • Use white cotton underwear only.

  • Drink more liquids during the day. Urine should look light yellow, not dark.

  • You can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, fussiness, or discomfort. Don't use ibuprofen in infants younger than 6 months old. If your child has chronic liver or kidney disease or has ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or he or she is taking blood thinner medicines, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • If your child was given antibiotics for an infection, give them until they are used up or the healthcare provider tells you to stop. It's important to finish the antibiotics even if your child feels better. This is to make sure the infection has cleared. 

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised. If a culture specimen was taken, you may call as directed for the result.

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Symptoms don't go away after 3 days

  • Fever (see "Fever and children," below)

  • Unable to urinate

  • More redness or rash in the genital area

  • Discharge from the penis or vagina

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