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Does my child have a bladder infection?

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Denise Lenarz,MD Author: Denise Lenarz, MD, Pediatrician

If you notice that your child has to pee more often or if he/she complains that peeing hurts, your child may have urethritis. This happens when the urethra becomes inflamed.

The urethra is the tube that drains urine out of the body. For girls, the urethra is the opening above the vagina. For boys, the urethra is the opening on the tip of the penis.

Depending on your child’s age, it can be difficult to figure out what is wrong. You may need to ask the same question in different ways using terms your child understands.

Talk to your health care provider to determine if your child should be evaluated. Symptoms of urethritis are similar to a bladder infection (urinary tract infection). Symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning in the urethra when urinating
  • Pain around the vagina or penis
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Not wanting to urinate, which can cause accidents
  • Not wanting to drink to avoid urinating
  • Lower abdominal pressure or pain

If you suspect urethritis and bring your child to a health care provider, assure your child that the visit will be painless. All your child needs to do is pee in a cup, which is usually fun for kids.

In children, urethritis is usually caused by a chemical irritation — not an infection. Chemicals like soap, bubble baths or skin lotions that get inside the urethra can cause the irritation. Symptoms usually resolve within three days after the last exposure to the irritant.

Call your child’s health care provider right away if:

  • Symptoms do not go away after three days.
  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) oral or 101.4°F (38.5°C) rectal or higher occurs.
  • Child is unable to urinate.
  • Redness or rash in the genital area increases.
  • There is discharge from the penis or vagina.

How can you prevent urethritis?

  1. Only cleanse genitals with warm water — soap is not needed until puberty.
  2. Don’t use bubble bath. Don’t put any soaps or shampoos into the bath water.
  3. Shampoo your child’s hair at the end of the bath or only during showers.
  4. Keep bath time to less than 10 minutes.
  5. Have your child urinate immediately after a bath.