Eight Ways to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection


nicole-freedman-author-banner-060513_v2 Last week I talked about the signs and symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTI). 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, who get frequent UTIs. This is frustrating and scary for families. Because of this, I feel compelled to do as much as possible to help parents know how to prevent UTIs from happening. Your child doesn’t need to experience and pain and discomfort of an infection.

Why Kids Get Urinary Tract Infections

How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection

There are a few main reasons kids get UTIs.

  1. Bacteria from the child’s skin can climb up the urinary tract. How 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. Here are some suggestions to help your child practice healthy bathroom habits, which in turn, could help prevent infections down the road:

  • 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 if 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 its 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 cause 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.
  • Proper wiping. 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).
  • Clothing choices. Cotton underpants are recommended, especially 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 can give bacteria the perfect environment to grow and can cause infection. If your child cannot control when they go to the bathroom, their underwear should be changed frequently because moisture can make bacteria grow, which can cause infection.
  • No bubble baths. It’s recommend that all children stay away from bubble baths full of frothy soap because it can lead to skin irritation on and around the genitalia. Showers or regular baths are fine.
  • Stay hydrated. Urine should be a very light color, almost like water. The more your child drinks, the more they need to go to the bathroom. The bladder is the happiest and healthiest when it is flushed out frequently. Dark urine is more likely to burn and make a child want to hold their urine inside.
  • Avoid constipation. Children who hold their stool, often hold their urine. When there is stool in the lower part of the colon, this places bacteria in closer proximity to the urethra (where pee comes out). We recommend that children have a bowel movement once daily.
  • Empty the bladder completely. Some children do not empty their bladder completely after peeing. They pee just enough to make the sensation go away because they are in a hurry to go back to what they were doing, or are so used to holding on to their urine that their body tightens the bladder muscles in the middle of peeing so they stop too early. Ask your child to “double pee” each time they go to the bathroom. Double peeing means trying to go again, immediately after they just peed, to promote better bladder emptying.

Urinary tract infections are not fun and can be preventable using the suggestions in this blog post. I hope you found this helpful and I encourage you to share this with other parents!