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Your need-to-know guide about bladder infections in girls

Urinary tract infections or bladder infections can be common in young girls, especially those who are still learning good toilet habits and proper hygiene.

UTIs in girls can show no symptoms or can be very painful. Get the facts on bladder infections and UTIs in girls, including how to prevent them, how to treat them, and how to help your daughter feel better if she has one.

You may think UTIs are only for grown-ups, but they’re surprisingly common in girls. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 8 percent of girls will experience a UTI during childhood. That’s four times more often than boys. Because girls have a short urethra, and because young girls may not practice the best bathroom hygiene, it’s easier for girls to get a UTI. As Mom, you should educate yourself on symptoms and prevention.

Recognize the symptoms

Most of the symptoms of a UTI revolve around pee. If your daughter pees a lot, says it hurts when she pees, or refuses to pee at all, she may have a urinary tract infection. If her urine is dark, cloudy or has a foul odor, it may be a sign of a UTI. While some kids experience no symptoms, others may vomit, feel abdominal cramping or run a fever. Girls may be hesitant or embarrassed to talk about issues with going to the bathroom. If you notice your daughter holding her urine for a long time or going frequently, gently ask her if it feels bad or weird when she goes. Make sure she knows she’s done nothing wrong.

Make a pediatrician appointment

Bladder infections must be diagnosed by your child’s doctor using a sample of urine. Obtaining a sample can be difficult with a child who already doesn’t want to pee because it hurts. Babies and young toddlers may require brief catheterization to retrieve a sample. Stress to your daughter that the doctor will be able to give her medicine to help her feel better. In most cases, your child will require antibiotics to clear up a UTI. You should avoid giving your daughter cranberry juice or other sugary drinks if she’s already experiencing symptoms. While cranberry is a good preventative, it will cause pain and irritation in an already-infected urinary tract.

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Learn how to prevent bladder infections

Bacteria from bowel movements is the most common cause of a UTI in girls. The most effective way to prevent the spread of bacteria is to teach good toilet habits, including washing well and wiping from front to back. Encourage your daughter to use the bathroom regularly. Holding urine too long can also lead to a UTI. Avoid using bubble bath in your daughter’s bath. The chemicals and fragrances can irritate her delicate skin. Encourage her to wear cotton underwear and to change out of wet bathing suits and nylon workout clothes promptly. Ask your child’s pediatrician if a cranberry extract is safe for her age.

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Soothe her symptoms

If your daughter has been diagnosed with a UTI, don’t fret. Antibiotics will make quick work of the bacteria. In some cases, a UTI can lead to a kidney infection, which is one of the reasons you should seek care if you notice symptoms. Your child’s doctor may prescribe pain medication in addition to antibiotics. Encourage her to drink water, but don’t force her to drink more than she normally would. If your daughter is experiencing pain and irritation, Wendy Wells, NMD, suggests using baking soda to soothe her skin. “Add 4 tablespoons to warm water and have her soak for 20 minutes,” Wells says. “Repeat every four hours over a few days.”

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