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How does urinary tract infection develop in infants?

You might notice that your little one is suddenly becoming increasingly irritable; they are fed, changed, burped, bathed and nothing you do seems to appease them. Since your baby can’t tell you about his discomfort, you will have to slowly figure out what’s wrong with him. If your baby is running a fever and appears to be out of sorts, chances could be your infant is suffering from a urinary tract infection.

It can be difficult identifying urinary tract infection in babies, and the symptoms might not be clear. However, if your infant is displaying signs of irritability, loose stools, and an inflamed nose and throat, it could be time to see a paediatrician.

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What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A UTI involves infection of the bladder and urethra, and may affect the kidneys if left untreated. Water passes from our inborn filters – the kidneys – to the bladder where it awaits to tend the call of nature. Under normal circumstances, the bladder is a healthy and sterile environment, but surface bacteria can migrate into the bladder. Bacteria love dark and damp environments, so the bladder becomes a new breeding ground where bacteria can multiply. This is when a UTI sets in.

What causes urinary tract infection in babies?

Contrary to popular belief, a urinary tract infection in babies isn’t due to poor hygiene. Some children are just prone to certain infections. But changing your baby’s nappy regularly is vital. Bacteria can sneak into the urethra from the skin surrounding the genitals. Wiping your baby’s bum from back to front, as opposed to front to back, can cause infection.

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In some cases, urinary tract infection in babies may also be an indication of an abnormal urinary tract. In recurring cases your doctor will recommend additional tests and x-rays. Most UTI cases are harmless, but they can lead to serious infections and complications if they are not treated promptly.

Tell-tale signs of urinary tract infection in babies include:

  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Vomiting, not feeding properly
  • Loose bowel movements
  • Cloudy urine, unpleasant smell from urine
  • Inflamed airways

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How common is urinary tract infection in babies?

This is an extremely common condition, and it is more prevalent among girls. The urethra of a girl is shorter, and the opening is closer to the anus than in boys. The close distance between the urethra and the anus makes girls more susceptible to UTI.

Treatment for urinary tract infection in babies

The first thing to do if you suspect your baby is suffering from UTI is to consult a paediatrician, who will then collect a urine sample for analysis. Once your doctor has established that infection is present, treatment is as simple as a course of antibiotics or infection-fighting medication. A typical course will last between three to five days, but you should be able to see an improvement in your baby’s condition after 24 hours. It is absolutely necessary to finish the prescribed course so as to avoid the infection from returning a few days later.

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