Symptoms & Causes of Bladder Infection in Children

What are the symptoms of a bladder infection?

Don’t assume that you’ll know when your child has a bladder infection, even if you’ve had one yourself. Symptoms can be very different in children than in adults, especially for infants and preschoolers. If your child is not well, contact your child’s pediatrician or health clinic.

A mother comforting an unhappy baby.
Fussiness or a general ill feeling can be symptoms of a bladder or kidney infection in a child younger than age 2.

Young children

It’s not always obvious when an infant or child younger than age 2 has a bladder infection. Sometimes there are no symptoms. Or, your child may be too young to be able to explain what feels wrong. A urine test is the only way to know for certain whether your child has a bladder or kidney infection.

When a young child has symptoms of a UTI, they may include

  • fever, which may be the only sign
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • irritability or fussiness
  • poor feeding or appetite; poor weight gain

Older children

Symptoms of a bladder or kidney infection in a child ages 2 and older can include

  • pain or burning when urinating
  • cloudy, dark, bloody, or foul-smelling urine
  • frequent or intense urges to urinate
  • pain in the lower belly area or back
  • fever
  • wetting after a child has been toilet trained

Seek care right away

If you think your child has a bladder infection, take him or her to a health care professional within 24 hours. A child who has a high fever and is sick for more than a day without a runny nose, earache, or other obvious cause should also be checked for a bladder infection. Quick treatment is important to prevent the infection from getting more dangerous.

What causes a bladder infection?

Most often a bladder infection is caused by bacteria that are normally found in the bowel. The bladder has several systems to prevent infection. For example, urinating most often flushes out bacteria before it reaches the bladder. Sometimes, your child’s body can’t fight the bacteria and the bacteria cause an infection. Certain health conditions can put children at risk for bladder infections.

April 2017

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Saul P. Greenfield, MD, FAAP, FACS, State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine; Jeffrey M. Saland, MD, MSCR, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai