Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common, yet easily missed in babies and toddlers who are still in nappies. Here's what to watch out for:
SYMPTOMS AREN'T ALWAYS CLEAR-CUT
Does your little one cry or complain about pain while urinating, or seem to be wetting more diapers than he usually does?
Or has he stayed dry for longer than usual?
These could be signs of a UTI and you should take him to the doctor, says the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP).
Also, look out for episodes when he passes urine that is cloudy, bloody or has a strong foul smell, or wets himself if he already knows how to use the toilet.
Other signs include fever, vomiting, tummy pain and lethargy, says Dr Oh Meng Choo, a paediatrician at Kids Clinic, a Singapore Medical Group paediatric clinic.
About one in 20 babies can have fever without the common UTI symptoms.
SOILED SOGGY DIAPER IS IDEAL BREEDING GROUND FOR GERMS
Many types of bacteria that cause UTIs are also found in the colon (large intestine), the most common one being Escherichia coli (E Coli), says Dr Leo Deng Jin, a paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre (Bukit Panjang).
He explains that most UTIs are due to "ascending" infections - the bacteria along the lower part of the urinary tract, like the urethra (the passageway that carries urine from the bladder out of the body), climb and invade the upper parts, causing an infection.
Babies and toddlers are vulnerable to UTIs because they are in diapers most of the time and tend to urinate more frequently than adults. Wet, dirty diapers encourage bacteria to breed on the skin within the groin area, so change nappies regularly, Dr Leo says.
IT CAN TURN DEADLY
The only way to confirm if your child has UTI is to send a urine sample for testing.
UTIs need to be treated promptly with antibiotics. Your child will need to have his kidneys checked using an ultrasound scan. If he gets an infection before his first birthday, he may be hospitalised and given antibiotics via drip, says Dr Oh.
Delaying treatment means you run the risk of the infection progressing to the bloodstream or to other organs, Dr Leo warns.
If the infection spreads to the upper urinary tract, such as the kidneys, it could lead to kidney scarring and failure, Dr Oh says.
And if the bacteria enters your baby's bloodstream, there could be life-threatening complications.
UTIS CAN BE PREVENTED
• If you have a girl, always clean her genital area from front to back. If you have a boy, clean his genitals by retracting the foreskin gently.
• Train your toddler to go promptly whenever he feels the urge to pee or poo. Holding it in can increase UTI risk.
• Choose cotton underpants and avoid tight-fitting bottoms.
• Avoid bubble baths and other substances like perfumed soaps that can irritate the genitals.
• Encourage your child to drink plenty of plain water to "flush out" the bladder.
• This article first appeared in Young Parents magazine. Young Parents, published by SF Magazines, is available in digital and print formats.
• For the full story, go to www.youngparents.com.sg