Recurrent urinary tract infections / cystitis

What is a recurrent urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (PDF) is an infection of the bladder or kidneys. It is one of the most common bacterial diseases in children. Girls are more likely to get a UTI than boys, especially after the first few months of life, because they have a short urethra. The urethra is the tube for urination, leading out from the bladder. Girls ages 2 to 6 are at the highest risk. Risk also increases if the child is born with a urinary tract problem, or has trouble with toilet training.

In some children, urinary tract infections happen frequently. When this happens, it may mean an underlying condition is present, such as vesicoureteral reflux (PDF), hydronephrosis, dysfunctional voiding (when a child doesn't urinate frequently enough or doesn't relax the muscles properly during urination), or a disorder of the immune system. If urinary tract infections aren't treated, they can cause damage to the kidneys.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Signs of a UTI vary for different ages. Fever and trouble with urinating are common; however, in young children the signs may be unclear. Watch for these possible signs:

  • Infants:
    -- Fever
    -- Irritability
    -- Colicky or cramping signs (crying and flexing legs)
    -- Feeding problems
    -- Vomiting
    -- Diarrhea
    -- Diaper rash
    -- Dribbling of urine or constantly wet diaper
    -- Urine has a strange color or smell
  • Toddlers and young children:
    -- Fever
    -- Crying or straining with urination
    -- Refusing to urinate
    -- Stopping urination and having trouble starting again
    -- Urine is cloudy or has a bad smell
    -- A child who is usually dry may start having wetting accidents
  • Older children, teens, and adults:
    -- Fever
    -- Pain or burning during urination
    -- Urgent or frequent urination
    -- Pain in the lower back, flank (sides of the low back), abdomen (belly), or groin
    -- Urine is cloudy or has a bad smell

How are recurrent UTIs treated?

After your child has been treated for the UTI, the medical team may perform one or more of the following tests to try to determine the cause of recurrent UTIs:

Treatment depends on the cause of recurrent UTIs, but sometimes involves surgery to correct anatomical problems or blockages. Antibiotics may be prescribed for months or even years to prevent recurrent infections.

About surgery for urinary tract infections at Children's

The pediatric urology surgery team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest. The team consistently performs some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Urologic surgery is performed at Children's - Minneapolis, Children's - St. Paul, and Children's West.

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children's specialist in urology surgery, please call the Center for Pediatric Urology at 1-800-992-6983.
  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).

Return to Children's pediatric urology surgery home page.