London: Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is one of the most common bacterial infections infecting women. Of late, though, children, as young as five years old, are also contracting the infection, largely due to unhygienic toilet practices. UTI is caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the skin around the anus and the vagina.
The most common cause of UTI is E. coli bacteria, which originates in the intestines. Most UTIs are caused when this or other bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Causes
Types of UTI and symptoms
The initial signs of a UTI in children can get overlooked as younger children may not be able to describe the source of their distress. Parents should not delay consulting a doctor if the child looks sick and has a high fever without a runny nose, earache, or other obvious reasons for illness. A child can develop a UTI when bacteria enter the urinary tract and travel up the urethra, into the body.
The two types of UTIs most likely to affect children are bladder infections and kidney infections. When a UTI affects the bladder, it becomes cystitis. When the infection travels from the bladder to the kidneys, it is known as pyelonephritis. Both can be treated with antibiotics, but a kidney infection can lead to more serious health complications if left untreated.
A structural deformity or blockage in one of the organs of the urinary tract, abnormal function of the urinary tract, vesicoureteral reflux, a birth defect that results in the abnormal backward flow of urine, the use of bubbles in baths or tight-fitting clothes in girls, wiping from back to front after a bowel movement, poor toilet and hygiene habits, and infrequent urination or delaying urination for long periods of time are some of the common risk factors for children developing UTI.
Getting the right treatment is important as an untreated UTI may cause kidney abscess, reduced kidney function or kidney failure, or swelling of the kidneys, or sepsis leading to organ failure and death.
Signs and symptoms include:
- A burning feeling when urinating
- A frequent urge to urinate, despite little urine, coming out upon doing so
- Dark, cloudy, or strange-smelling urine
- Fever and chills
- Pain in the lower abdomen or back
The most common cause of UTIs is a transfer of bacteria from the anus to the urethra. Because women have shorter urethras and less distance between the two body parts, it is easier for bacteria to be introduced. Antibiotics are the most common treatment followed by drinking a lot of water to flush bacteria from the body.
UTIs do not typically lead to death but, when left untreated, they can cause sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which chemicals that the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.
A 2019 study found that the risk of bloodstream infection was more than seven times greater in patients who did not receive antibiotics immediately after seeing a physician for a UTI.