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Recently I talked about the signs and symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms can help you get the care your child needs as quickly as possible. I see some children in our office, the Division of Pediatric Urology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, who get frequent UTIs. This is frustrating and scary for families.
There are a few main reasons kids get UTIs:
1. Bacteria from the child’s skin can climb up the urinary tract. The way children wipe after going to the bathroom can make a significant difference.
2. The urinary tract inside a child’s body is placed in a way that makes them more likely to get a UTI.
3. Children learn bad habits such as holding their pee for too long, or rushing out of the bathroom too quickly.
You can help your child reduce their risk of developing an infection just by changing certain behaviors:
• Encourage your child to use the potty more often. Young children are known for holding their pee for extended periods of time because they do not like to take breaks from playing. Some children who have experienced a UTI in the past are afraid to pee because they think it will hurt again. When I ask my 4-year-old nephew whether he needs to use the potty, the answer is almost always “no.” However, when I take him to the bathroom he is always able to pee. Sound familiar? Instead of asking, tell your child when it’s time to use the potty. Don’t make it a choice. We recommend asking children to empty their bladders at least every two to three hours. When urine sits in the bladder for too long, it gives bacteria plenty of time to multiply, which can lead to an infection.
• Time your child’s potty sessions. It’s important for children to stay on a timed schedule for using the bathroom to make sure they empty their bladders often. I recommend a “potty watch” that can be programmed to buzz or vibrate during the daytime at an interval set by parents. The vibrating ones are great for older school-aged children because they are discrete. Enter “potty watch” in your favorite search browser and many different styles will come up. Older children and teens can set phone alarms to vibrate or alarm to do the same thing.
• Teach proper wiping. Make sure your children wipe front to back. It’s also important to make sure your child knows not to reuse toilet tissue that was used to wipe their bottom to wipe their urethral area (where pee comes out).
• Buy cotton underpants. This is especially important during the summer months because it allows air circulation down below. Also, tight pants, such as skinny jeans, do not allow for good circulation, which creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and can cause infection.
Visit WeTreatKidsBetter.org for additional ways to prevent a urinary tract infection.
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