Urinary tract infections are a common and painful ailment for children, but a few simple strategies can go a long way toward keeping the problem at bay, says Dr. Antoine Khoury, medical director of urology at CHOC Children’s.
Dr. Khoury offers four measures parents and children can take to promote good urinary tract health in kids.
Drink lots of water
Parents should encourage children to stay hydrated.
“Water is really important,” explains Dr. Khoury. “Drinking water increases the volume of urine. This helps the child flush bacteria from their bladder out.”
A dehydrated body conserves water, which can prompt constipation and reduce the frequency of urination, and the flushing of bacteria, Dr. Khoury says.
“Constipation also stops the bladder from emptying completely,” he says. “This results in retention of some bacteria in there that will start multiplying as soon as the child stops peeing.”
Dr. Khoury also says that children should examine their urine to ensure proper hydration.
“If it’s yellow, it’s concentrated so they haven’t had enough water to drink,” he says. “It should be the same color as the water in the toilet bowl, which is clear.”
Ensure children urinate every two to three hours or at least seven times a day, which reduces the length of time that urine sits in the bladder and bacteria can grow, Dr. Khoury says
“Kids should go to the bathroom when they wake up; before going to school or at morning recess; at lunchtime; at afternoon recess or when they get home from school; before dinner; between dinner and bedtime; and before they go to bed,” he says.
Children also should be encouraged to use the toilet at school and not “hold it” until they get home, as some kids might do because they don’t want to give up playtime at recess.
To help encourage children to urinate regularly, parents can buy their kids a watch with multiple alarms or set a schedule, Dr. Khoury recommends.
“I tell kids, ‘I want you to be your bladder’s boss. You tell your bladder it’s time to go,’” he says.
Eat a healthy diet
Preventing and correcting constipation is an important factor in ensuring proper urinary tract health, children should eat plenty of fruits, veggies and foods rich in fiber, Dr. Khoury says.
Fiber-rich foods include cereals, whole wheat bread and Fiber One bars.
“I prefer water, but if parents have to give the kids juice, use cranberry juice or prune juice,” Dr. Khoury says.
Practice good hygiene
Cleanliness, good toilet habits and proper hygiene in the genital area helps prevent the introduction of bacteria into the urinary tract, Dr. Khoury says.
When using the toilet, girls should be taught to wipe from front to back to prevent the spread of bacteria, he recommends.
Uncircumcised boys should be taught to regularly clean their penis and foreskin in the bath or shower, Dr. Khoury advises.
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