Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

UTI Information for FamiliesWhat is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs along the urinary tract and can include the urethra, bladder, and kidney(s). UTI is one of the most common infections in childhood. Incidence of UTI in infants and young children who have a fever without evidence of a source is approximately 5 percent. (Girls have a higher likelihood of having UTI than boys.) UTI can cause distress to the child, and two thirds of young children with UTI accompanied by fever will have an infection involving the kidneys. About 15 percent of these cases will develop permanent kidney scars. Kidney scarring can lead to high blood pressure, complications during pregnancy, and kidney failure. Therefore, early and accurate diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent kidney scarring.


Bacteria (germs) on the skin around the rectum travel up the urethra to the bladder. The bacteria then can cause a bladder infection (cystitis), or if bacteria travel up further, a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) develops.

UTI symptoms

The symptoms of UTI are not always obvious because young children may not be able describe how they feel. Fever may be the only apparent symptom of a UTI. Infants and young children may experience fever, irritability, foul smelling urine, or vomiting. Older children may experience fever and may complain of pain or stinging while urinating, or have abdominal or back pain. They may also experience more frequent urination, wetting problems, cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine.


Antibiotics will be prescribed by your doctor or provider, and the child may start to feel better in as soon as 2 to 3 days. Children diagnosed with vesicoureteral reflux (VUR), or who have had more than one UTI, may be prescribed a low-dose antibiotic each day for a prolonged period. Following UTI, diagnostic imaging studies including kidney ultrasound, voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG), and kidney scans (DMSA) may be recommended.