Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children can usually be diagnosed by your GP. They'll carry out a physical examination, ask about your child's symptoms, and request a urine sample.
You may be asked to collect the urine sample yourself, or a doctor or nurse at your GP surgery may help you.
These tests help your GP identify what's causing the infection and determine whether it's in the lower or upper part of the urinary tract.
If your child is less than three months old, your GP may refer you straight to hospital to see a specialist in caring for children (paediatrician) without asking for a urine sample.
Collecting a urine sample
Collecting a urine sample from a child can sometimes be difficult, especially in babies and young children.
If you're not sure what to do or need some help collecting the urine sample, ask a doctor or nurse for advice.
In young children who are toilet trained, you'll usually be asked to collect a urine sample using a sterile bottle provided by your GP surgery.
Collect a sample by holding the bottle in the stream of urine while your child is urinating. Make sure nothing touches the open rim of the bottle, as this could affect the result.
Read about how to collect and store a urine sample.
If you're unable to collect a clean sample, it may be collected using a special absorbent pad that you put in your baby's nappy. A urine sample is then sucked out of the pad using a syringe.
If a urine sample is very difficult to collect at home or in a GP surgery, you may need to go to a hospital.
In such cases, a urine sample can be obtained by inserting a small plastic tube called a catheter into your child's urethra.
In most cases, treatment begins soon after a urine sample has been taken and your child won't need any further tests.
However, there are some circumstances where further tests may be carried out, including if:
- your child is less than six months old
- there's no improvement in your child's symptoms within 24 to 48 hours of treatment
- your child has any unusual symptoms, such as reduced urine flow, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a noticeable lump or mass in their tummy (abdomen) or bladder
- your child has repeated UTIs
In these cases, doctors may recommend carrying out some scans to look for any abnormalities.
There are many different scans that may be carried out to check for problems in your child's urinary tract, including:
- an ultrasound scan – where sound waves emitted by a special probe move over your child's skin and are used to build up a picture of the inside of their body
- a dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) scan – where your child is injected with a slightly radioactive substance called DMSA that shows up on a special device called a gamma camera, which takes pictures of your child's kidneys; after the scan, the DMSA will pass harmlessly out of your child's body in their urine
- a micturating cystourethrogram (MCUG) – where a catheter is used to pass a special type of liquid (contrast agent) that shows up clearly on X-rays into your child's bladder while a series of X-rays are taken; as with the DMSA scan, the contrast agent will pass harmlessly out of your child's body in their urine
The type of scans used and when they're carried out depends on your child's specific circumstances. In some cases, these scans may be carried out a few weeks or months after your child originally developed the infection.