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Kids’ kidney stones cases on the rise

When I began treating kids with kidney and related issues in the 1970s, and well into the 1980s, pediatric kidney stone cases were not prevalent. Kidney stones are most common in adults between the ages of 35 and 60 and back then if more than a handful of kids came into my office over the course of a given year for kidney stone treatment that would have been a lot.

Girl with kidney pain

My how times have changed! Now, I am treating multiple kidney stone cases a month. In fact, it’s one of the first things we think about now in any child who has the compatible history — complaining of recurrent abdominal and/or back pain, blood in the urine and nausea or vomiting.

Why the dramatic rise in kidney stone cases? Observations point to diet and lifestyle as the likely culprits. Kidney stones begin with the formation of crystals from either excessive or insufficient chemicals in the urine. This is particularly the case when the urine is concentrated. Kids today just don’t drink as much water as they used to and they are also eating a diet that is much higher is salt, which increases urinary calcium. Actually, anything that increases calcium in the urine increases the risk of forming kidney stones. Kidney stones comprised of calcium oxalate are the most common in the United States, and these stones form when oxalate, a byproduct of certain foods including fruits, chocolate and peanut butter, bind to calcium in the urine. Childhood obesity, which is also on the rise, is another kidney stone contributor. A family history of kidney stones is a formation factor as well.

How would you know if your child has a kidney stone? Pay attention when your child’s normal complaints of a tummy ache take a different turn. Kidney stone pain will be severe and will make the child restless and no amount of moving around or staying still will alleviate it. Other symptoms would be nausea and vomiting as well as blood in the urine that is visible to the naked eye. Also, your child may become pale and sweaty. If your child experiences these symptoms, see your child’s pediatrician or go to your local hospital’s emergency room for treatment.

To help your children avoid kidney stones, follow these tips:

  • Make sure kids drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Urine should be almost clear and not dark yellow. Remember this slogan: The solution to pollution is dilution!
  • Limit high-salt foods, especially fast foods.
  • If a child complains of recurrent abdominal, flank or back pain, do not overlook the possibility of kidney stones, especially if there is a family history of kidney stones.
  • Do not avoid calcium in food, as this has nothing to do with the calcium found in urine and is needed for healthy bones.

Provided by Maria Fareri Childrens Hospital at Westchester Medical Center

About Maria Fareri Childrens Hospital at Westchester Medical Center

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center is the advanced care facility for the Hudson Valley and an advocate for children’s health and wellness. For more information on the Children’s Hospital and its services, please visit

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