My 4-Year-Old Complains That It Burns When Peeing

Burning pain when urinating can be the first sign that your child has a urinary tract infection, commonly abbreviated UTI. The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse reports that UTIs affect about 3 percent of children in the United States each year and account for more than one million visits to pediatricians’ offices. Prompt treatment of UTIs helps prevent complications that could damage the kidneys.


UTIs occur when bacteria grows in the bladder, urethra or ureters that make up the lower part of the urinary tract. Two ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, while the urethra transports urine from the bladder to the external opening in your child’s genitals. Bacterial growth causes infection and inflammation of the structures of the lower urinary tract and results in a condition called cystitis. Untreated infections of the lower urinary tract can eventually reach the kidneys, causing a more serious infection called pyelonephritis 1.


In addition to pain when urinating, other symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include a fever, vomiting, nausea and frequent urination. Even though your child may feel the urge to urinate frequently, she may only be able to urinate in very small amounts. A UTI may temporarily affect your child’s ability to control urination, resulting in bathroom accidents. If your child has a UTI, her urine may look cloudy or may have an unpleasant smell. Pain in the abdomen, side or lower back might occur if the infection progresses to the kidneys.

Risk Factors

Although a variety of bacteria and viruses can cause UTIs, the intestinal bacteria E. coli is the most frequent cause of UTIs, according to the KidsHealth website. Failing to clean the anal area completely after having a bowel movement can increase the risk that E. coli bacteria will reach the urinary tract. Girls have a higher chance of developing a UTI because of the short distance between the urethra and the anus and the shorter length of the urethra in females. Using bubble baths or strong soaps can irritate the urethra and lead to UTIs. If others in the family are prone to developing UTIs, your child may be at increased risk even if you are vigilant about keeping the genital area clean. In some cases, UTIs can occur due to abnormalities in the urinary tract or as a result of delaying urination on a regular basis. Children who have vesicoureteral reflux, a condition that develops when urine flows backward from the bladder toward the kidneys, are also at increased risk.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose UTIs by analyzing a sample of your child’s urine. Once the type of bacteria is identified, your child’s doctor prescribes the appropriate antibiotic. Pain and other symptoms typically begin to subside gradually when your child begins antibiotic treatment. Depending on the cause of the infection, antibiotic treatment may be as short as three days or last for several weeks. In severe cases, your child may need to receive intravenous antibiotic treatment in a hospital.

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