Urinary Tract Infections - Children

What is a urine infection?
Cross-section diagram of the urinary tract
A urine infection is caused by germs (bacteria) that get into the urine. Most urine infections are due to bacteria that normally live in the bowel. They cause no harm in the bowel but can cause infection if they get into other parts of the body. Some bacteria lie around the back passage (anus) after a stool (faeces) has been passed. These bacteria can sometimes travel to the urethra (the tube that passes urine from the bladder) and into the bladder. Some bacteria thrive in urine and multiply quickly to cause infection.

The infection is commonly just in the bladder (when it is called cystitis), but may travel higher up to affect one or both kidneys as well.

Nearly 1 in 20 boys, and more than 1 in 10 girls, have at least one urine infection by the time they are 16 years old. Children aged under 5 years are the most commonly affected.

Some terms used by doctors include:

Urinary tract infection (UTI) - which means a urine infection somewhere in the urinary tract.
Lower UTI - which means the infection is confined to the bladder and urethra. This is much the same as cystitis.
Upper UTI - the infection affects a kidney and/or tube called a ureter.
Pyelonephritis - this is another term that means infection of a kidney.
Loin pain - which is a pain in the side of the tummy (abdomen), often coming from a kidney.

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