Kidney stones have the reputation of being extremely painful, some even say more painful than childbirth. But we also usually associate kidney stones with older people, not kids.
What is causing kidney stones to be more common in kids, and what can parents do?
Kidney stones are solid chunks of substances normally found in urine that become highly concentrated. When stones form, they may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract and become stuck, blocking the flow of urine. Small stones can pass out of the body with little or no pain, but larger stones tend to get stuck in the urinary tract. This can block the flow of urine, and cause severe pain.
According to the National Institutes of Health, substances normally found in urine — like calcium, magnesium, oxalate and phosphorous — can become highly concentrated and cause kidney stones for several reasons.
Pascale H. Lane, M.D. is a pediatric nephrologist who deals with pediatric kidney stone patients. She is also a professor of pediatrics at the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center. We asked if, in her experience, there has been an increase in kidney stones in pediatric patients in recent years. “The rate of kidney stones in children seems to be on the rise in recent years,” she shares. “Familial factors, such as extra calcium in the urine, can cause children to develop stones. Sodium and calcium handling in the kidney are linked, and excess sodium in the diet can promote stone formation as well,” she shares. “Obesity is also associated with kidney stone risk. The recent rise in stones may be due to sodium intake from processed foods and the rise of childhood obesity.”
According to Dr. Lane, parents should be diligent about making sure their children are taking in enough fluids throughout the day. “The most important prevention for kidney stones is drinking lots of fluid,” she shares. “The urine should appear clear or pale yellow. A lot of kids do not want to use the restroom during the day, especially once they enter high school. We need to encourage them to drink more and urinate.” As a parent, you need to be somewhat aware of your child’s habits, and to make sure they are using the restroom at regular intervals. “If your child has stones, watch for sodium in the diet. Remember, sports drinks contain sodium that can promote kidney stones,” Dr. Lane adds.
Kidney stones aren’t something to be taken lightly. They can be extremely painful, especially in children. Make sure that your child is drinking enough fluids and urinating on a regular basis during the day.
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