Health A-Z

Urinary Tract Infections in Adults and Children


A urinary tract infection, which is commonly known as UTI, is a bacterial infection that occurs in most individuals at least once during their lifetime. It is more common in adult females than in males and occurs when bacteria travel to the urinary bladder through the urethra. Urine by itself does not contain bacteria, however there are present in great numbers in the rectal area and in the bowel movements. These bacteria such as E. coli, often cling to the opening of the urethra into the bladder, where they can multiply. Thus causing infection and inflammation of the bladder. Cystitis is a condition when these bacteria remain in the bladder and cause swelling or redness. If the bacteria travel further upward from the bladder through the ureters and reach the kidneys, a kidney infection may develop, which is called pyelonephritis, which is a much more severe condition if not caught early. An infection that spreads to the kidneys can possibly cause more severe and permanent damage.
A patient suffering from a UTI often presents with symptoms such as increased urination, pain or burning sensation during urination, high fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, blood in the urine etc. While treatment is simple and often only includes antibiotics, it is important that a UTI is caught early. Some drugs are also available over the counter for immediate relief of pain and burning symptoms., though a complete course of antibiotic is needed to treat the infection completely. The antibiotics are usually given based on the kind of infection an individual is suffering from which is determined by a routine urine test or blood culture. It is critical to consult your doctor or health care provider as early as the first signs appear. Not only can its symptoms get severe and hard to ignore, if left untreated or multiple urinary tract infections, predisposes a person to kidney stones or renal failure.

Cranberries and some other herbs are believed to prevent UTIs however they cannot treat an infection that already exists. A good personal hygiene along with lifestyle modifications can be beneficial for preventing repeated UTIs. Cleaning, or washing of the genital area frequently, and urinating before sexual intercourse may lower the chances of a urinary tract infection. Also, showers are known to be better than soak baths or bubble baths. Keeping your body well dehydrated by drinking plenty of water also keeps the urinary tract flushed out, decreasing the chances of bacteria to settle and multiply. Some reports even suggest that caffeine drinks such as coffee and spicy food should be avoided.
A urinary tract infection is also seen commonly in children. In young infants it may be harder to identify the symptoms, but some of the signs are high fever that are not accompanied by symptoms such as chest congestion or running rose, strange urine smell in the diaper, or if a baby is irritable and cries more than usual. Since this infection can become life threatening even faster in young children, it is often critical to start early treatment. A physician usually inserts a catheter to collect a sterile urine sample for testing if a child is not toilet trained. Once the diagnosis is complete, treatment is similar as in adults, including antibiotics for 7-10 days. Also in children, once the infection is treated, it is sometimes important to do some additional diagnostic tests to ensure that there are no abnormalities in the urinary tract formation of function, that may hinder with kidney function or make a child susceptible to repeated infections.


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