Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children can be effectively treated with antibiotic medication.
This medication can often be given at home, although there are some situations where it may be necessary for your child to stay in hospital for a few days.
Treatment at home
If your child is over three months old and not thought to be at risk of serious illness, they can usually be treated at home with antibiotics.
The recommended length of treatment depends on whether your child has:
- a lower UTI – usually a 3-day course
- an upper UTI – usually a 7- to 10-day course
Your child may experience some side effects while taking antibiotics, but these are usually mild and should pass once they stop taking the medication.
Common side effects of antibiotics include:
- feeling sick
- an upset stomach
- loss of appetite
If necessary, paracetamol can also be used to treat any fever or discomfort your child has.
However, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as ibuprofen – shouldn't be used if your child has a UTI, as they can harm the kidneys. Aspirin should never be given to children under the age of 16.
If your child is unable to swallow tablets or capsules, they can be given antibiotics and paracetamol in liquid form.
Your child's condition will usually improve within 24 to 48 hours of treatment. However, it's very important they finish the whole prescribed course of antibiotics to prevent the infection recurring.
Treatment in hospital
If your child is less than three months old or it's thought their condition could get worse, they'll be referred to hospital for treatment.
Doctors may feel your child is at risk of becoming more seriously ill without hospital treatment if:
- they appear to be very unwell, or they are dehydrated or unable to keep down oral medication because they keep vomiting
- they display unusual symptoms, such as reduced urine flow, high blood pressure (hypertension), or a noticeable lump or mass in their tummy (abdomen) or bladder
- they were previously diagnosed with a condition that affects their urinary system
In these cases, your child usually needs to stay in hospital for a few days to receive antibiotics directly into a vein (intravenous antibiotics). As with cases treated at home, your child should improve within 24 to 48 hours.
Most UTIs in children clear up within a day or two and won't cause any long-term problems. Go back to your GP if your child isn't showing any signs of improvement by this point.
In many cases, your child won't need to be seen again once they've recovered. However, doctors may recommend carrying out some scans to check for any problems in your child's urinary tract that could have contributed to the infection.
Situations where further tests may be recommended include when:
- your child is less than six months old
- there's no improvement in your child's symptoms within 24 to 48 hours of treatment
- your child has any unusual symptoms, such as reduced urine flow, high blood pressure, or a noticeable lump or mass in their abdomen or bladder
- your child has repeated UTIs
Read our page on diagnosing UTIs in children for more information about the scans your child may have.