Female Bladder Infection (Child)

A bladder infection is when bacteria cause the bladder to be inflamed. The bladder holds urine. A tube called the urethra takes urine from the bladder out of the body. Sometimes bacteria can travel up the urethra. This causes the infection. Girls have bladder infections more often than boys. This is because the urethra is much shorter in girls than in boys.

The most common cause of bladder infections in children is bacteria from the bowels. The bacteria can get onto the skin around the urethra, and then into the urine. From there it can travel up to the bladder. This can happen because of:

  • Poor cleaning after using the toilet or during a diaper change

  • Not completely emptying the bladder

  • Constipation that prevents the bladder from emptying completely

  • Not drinking enough fluids to urinate often

  • Irritation of the urethra from soaps or tight clothes

Symptoms of a bladder infection include the need to urinate often and urgently. It may be painful. The urine may have a strong smell. It may be dark, tinted with blood, or cloudy. Your child may not be able to hold urine and may wet the bed or her clothes. Your child may also have a fever and belly pain. Some children don’t have symptoms. A baby may be fussy and not able to be soothed. She may cry when urinating. Your baby may also feed less or be less active.

A bladder infection is treated with antibiotics. The healthcare provider may also prescribe a medicine to treat pain. Children get better from a bladder infection quickly.

In many cases a bladder infection will come back. It’s important to take steps to prevent it (see below).

Home care

The healthcare provider will prescribe medicine to treat the infection. Follow all instructions for giving this medicine to your child. Use the medicine as instructed every day until it is gone. Don’t stop giving it to your child if she feels better.

Don’t give aspirin (or medicine that contains aspirin) to a child younger than age 19 unless directed by your child’s provider. Taking aspirin can put your child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder. It most often affects the brain and the liver.

For children ages 2 and up: If your child's healthcare provider says it's OK, you can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, fever, fussiness, or discomfort. If your child has chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with the healthcare provider before giving these medicines. Also talk with the provider if your child has ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, or is taking blood thinners.

General care

  • Keep track of how often your child urinates. Note the urine color and amount.

  • Tell your child to urinate often. Tell her to completely empty her bladder each time. This will help flush out bacteria.

  • Have your child wear loose clothes and cotton underwear.

  • Make sure that your child drinks enough fluids. Give your child cranberry juice if advised by the healthcare provider.

Prevention

  • Make sure your child wipes from front to back after using the toilet. Wipe your baby from front to back during diaper changes.

  • Make sure diapers aren’t tight. If you use cloth diapers, use cotton or wool protectors rather than nylon or rubber pants. 

  • Change soiled diapers right away.

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Or make sure your baby feeds often. This is to prevent dehydration.

  • Make sure your child urinates when needed, and does not hold it in.

  • Don’t give your child bubble baths. They can irritate the urethra.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. If a culture was done, you will be told of any findings that may affect your child's care.

Call 911

Call 911if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Trouble waking up

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast heart rate

  • Seizure

When to seek medical advice

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

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed

  • Symptoms don’t get better after 24 hours of treatment

  • Vomiting or inability to keep down medicine

  • Pain gets worse

  • Pain in the low back, belly, or side

  • Foul-smelling urine

  • Yellow color to the skin or eyes (jaundice)

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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