It's a fact of life: Mothers love to chat about their children. They compare notes on feeding, toilet training, and everything in between. Aside from parenting magazines and web sites, swapping child rearing stories, remedies and baby care tips is how moms learn, how they feel secure about their parenting skills, and how they bond with other parents. While veteran mothers will regale a perfect stranger with tales of stomach flus, leaking breasts and other earthy topics, there's a curious silence when it comes to urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children.
UTIs are common among very young boys and girls, but it's just not something people feel comfortable bringing out into the open. It may be the fear of being thought of as "dirty" or unhygienic that keeps this little malady under wraps. Or it may be that parents, who've never heard of another child getting a UTI, think that their kid is the only one who has had one. In fact, by age 11, about 3 percent of girls and 1 percent of boys will have seen a doctor for treatment of a urinary tract infection. Experts guess that the number of childhood infections is actually higher because some children don't show symptoms or can't describe what they're feeling, leaving many UTIs undetected. Unfortunately, an untreated urinary tract infection can lead to scarring of the kidneys and in rare cases, renal failure, so parents should be aware of this condition and the accompanying signs.
Contrary to popular belief, urine is actually sterile. It contains no germs. But children's fingers, underpants and the skin around the genitals can harbor lots of bacteria that can make their way through the urethra and into the bladder to cause an infection. If the infection goes untreated, it can travel to the kidneys where it can do serious and lasting damage.