Bladder infections are a kind of urinary tract infection. They can be uncomfortable and sometimes scary, but they are very common in children and babies, with one in 12 girls and one in 50 boys getting a bladder infection before the age of seven and usually get better in a few days.


Bladder infections are caused by bacteria that make their way into the urinary tract. While the one-way flow and excretion of urine typically keeps the bladder free from harmful bacteria, this is not foolproof. Occasionally, bacteria can remain in the bladder, causing an infection.

little toddler girl with stomach ache sitting on bed


Signs and Symptoms

Because small children have difficulty verbalizing the symptoms they feel, parents and doctors might overlook bladder infections in this age group. Sometimes the infection can pass symptom-free, or with only a fever with no apparent cause. Other possible symptoms to watch for are

  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • irritability or unexplained fussiness
  • loss of appetite or poor weight gain
  • blood in urine or strong-smelling urine
  • frequent need to urinate or pain with urination
  • pain in the lower back or abdomen

toddler girl on steps needs to use the bathroom



Treatment of a bladder infection may require antibiotics that can be administered in a variety of ways, depending on your child's size or willingness to take medication. Antibiotics can be taken orally via pill or syringe, or intravenously. Pain medications may also be added to the treatment plan to tackle pain and fever. Additionally, children should drink plenty of fluids to help flush out the bacteria.

toddler boy drinking a glass of water



Research has found that UTIs are among the most common infections in children, with bladder infections leading the pack. They occur most commonly in females after the age of one, although the numbers are equal between males and females in the first year. Current research seeks to discover why children react differently to bladder infections than adults and the impact of treatment on their bodies.

urinary tract infection diagnosis concept



With proper treatment and care, your baby or toddler should begin feeling better within a day or two. With antibiotics, the infection should clear up within a week. If this isn't the case and your child still feels ill after a few days, visit your healthcare professional.

smiling doctor doing checkup for little boy



Bladder infections are typically categorized as either simple or complicated. Simple infections occur in normal bladders where bacteria are left behind causing the infection.

Complicated bladder infections affect children with abnormal urinary systems, where the flow of urine may be obstructed due to nerve damage, a disease, or diabetes. This type of infection requires more specialized treatment.

baby crying in mother's lap


Side Effects of Bladder Infections

Bladder infections are typically easily treated with no side effects. However, in about three percent of cases, children or babies who get a bladder infection become more susceptible to kidney problems later in life, including renal scarring. These issues could lead to hypertension, chronic renal failure, or toxemia (also known as peeclampsia) in pregnancy.

man holding lower back, kidney pain concept


Risk Factors

As is the case with adults, young females are typically more prone to bladder infections than males, especially during potty training. This is because the urethra is shorter and is located closer to the anus. Uncircumcised males also have a slightly increased risk in their first year of life. Other factors include tight-fitting clothing, constipation, poor bathroom hygiene, and dehydration.

little toddler boy washing his hands in the bathroom



The best way to prevent bladder infections in babies and toddlers is to keep their diapers clean and teach them good wiping habits as they grow. Wiping from front to back is key, particularly for female toddlers. Also, ensure your child is getting plenty of fluids to help flush bacteria.

mother helping her toddler wash her hands


When to Call the Doctor

At the first sign of a bladder infection, it is best to take your child to a doctor and begin a treatment plan. For more serious cases, a baby or child may need to be hospitalized. Take your symptomatic child to the hospital if

  • they are under a year old
  • they have a high fever
  • they have back pain
  • they are dehydrated
  • they are unable to tolerate oral antibiotics
  • there is a concern about the infection traveling to the bloodstream

crying toddler girl on her mother's shoulder


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