Do you have a handful of kids? Have you often wondered why your little girls were more frequently diagnosed with urinary tract infection than your little boys? Must there be a special predilection of girls to this type of infection than boys? This might seem odd, but you have reason to believe there is. Let me tell you why.

Urinary tract infection or UTI happens when the body’s filtering system is invaded by bacteria, which multiply causing infection. The most common infecting bacteria come from the bowel that live on the skin near the rectum (where feces pass out), which can spread and enter the urethra (where urine passes out). Interestingly, girls are especially susceptible to UTI because of the close proximity of their rectum to their urethra. But in boys, their urethra is located at the tip of the penis which is considerably far enough from the rectum. Hence, there is very little chance for the bacteria in the rectum to be transferred to the urinary tract and cause infection.

Another cause of UTI in children is prolonged withholding of urine. Urine is contained in the bladder which is made up of muscles. Waiting too long to urinate will stretch the bladder muscle beyond its capacity causing it to weaken. When the bladder is weakened, it may not empty completely during urination. Some urine will be retained in the bladder, increasing the risk of urinary tract infection.

Symptoms of UTI include a strong urge to urinate, followed by a sharp pain or burning sensation in the urethra at the time of urination. Since the bladder is not fully emptied, the urge to urinate occurs quickly, increasing frequency of urination. However, these classic symptoms of UTI may not be evident in children. They are not keen observers to the symptoms, and besides children don’t usually complain. Most children will just present with high fever with no detectable physical focus of infection. Thus, the bases in diagnosing UTI in children are urinalysis and urine culture.

Since UTI is an infection caused by bacteria, seven to 10 ten days of antibiotics is usually required for treatment. While symptoms may recede soon after starting antibiotic treatment, antibiotics should still be continued until the full course of antibiotic treatment is finished. Quitting antibiotics sooner will not completely eradicate the bacteria and may even lead to resistance.

One good thing about UTI though, is that the predictability of its pathologic course allows us to make effective preventive measures. Here are some tips you might want to consider.

• Good personal hygiene is the most important tip to prevent UTI. After your child urinates or moves her bowel, always wipe from front to back and be sure to wash the skin around the rectum and between the rectum and vagina daily with soap and water. This will prevent bacteria from the anus from entering the urethra.

• Do not delay urination when the child tells you she has an urge to do so.

• Let your child drink plenty of water/fluids to help flush bacteria out of the urinary system.

• Increase your child’s intake of Vitamin C because this will make urine more acidic. An acidic urine can help reduce the number of potentially harmful bacteria in the urinary tract.

• Let your child wear panties made of cotton. Cotton fabrics permits escape of moisture while other materials trap moisture, creating a probable breeding ground for bacteria to grow.

As your child grows, it is important for her to be personally aware about urinary tract infection, for the reason that she will remain at high risk for acquiring the infection even in adulthood. Taking the necessary precautions can significantly reduce the frequency of UTI and prevent its complications.