A common infection in young kids, UTIs are often caused by Escherichia coli bacteria. In one recent study of kids with urinary infections, 27 percent had E. coli that didn't respond to the two most frequently used antibiotics. UTIs are most worrisome in babies and toddlers; if your child has a fever with no other symptoms, see your doctor right away.
Skipping antibiotics isn't a good option for a child under age 2 who has a UTI because an untreated infection can lead to serious kidney damage. That's why pediatricians usually recommend starting treatment immediately after diagnosis, rather than waiting to see whether a mild infection might resolve on its own.
It's important, though, to take the correct antibiotic. Most UTIs are diagnosed with an in-office urine test that confirms whether a child has an infection but does not identify the specific type of bacteria. If the result is positive, your pediatrician will prescribe an antibiotic to start while you're waiting for the culture results to come back from the lab. In a couple of days, the lab will identify the bacteria and send a list of effective antibiotics. If the drug your child has been taking isn't one of them, your doctor should give you a new prescription and decide whether your child should finish the initial one first.
Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids and use the bathroom frequently. That's the single best way to help prevent urinary-tract infections, explains Max Maizels, MD, a pediatric urologist at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Kids who hold in their urine are at higher risk for UTIs because any germs that reach the bladder have more time to grow before they're flushed away. Also be sure to teach your daughter to always wipe from front to back.