Urinary Tract Infections in Younger Girls – UTIs and What You Need to Know

Sarah Duckworth, DPT

April 24, 2019

What Is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is diagnosed when there is a presence of infection within your urinary system. This can include your kidneys, ureters, or lower urinary tract (bladder and urethra). In young girls, the lower urinary tract is the most common place for UTIs to develop.

Urinary tract infections affect nearly 150 million people a year worldwide, making them one of the most common bacterial infections. Approximately 8% of girls develop a UTI during childhood, accounting for over 1 million office visits a year in the United States. There are many reasons why a urinary tract infection may occur, but evidence indicates the most common source is Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria.

How Do UTIs Develop?

In order for a urinary tract infection to develop, three components are necessary:

  1. A source of the bacteria
  2. A path for the bacteria to travel
  3. A comfortable place for the bacteria to grow
Our GI tract when filled with stool is also filled with bacteria. Interestingly enough, the most common bacteria are E. coli. So with any bowel mass present, there will additionally be a large presence of bacteria. The tiny bacterial organisms travel from the GI tract, to the skin of the perineum, over to the urethra and then into the bladder where the organisms can flourish and grow.

Our school-aged children are often not encouraged to drink enough water and are not always encouraged to go to the bathroom. If they do go to the bathroom, they typically do not spend a lot of time in there and will rush out. These habits contribute to the development of constipation as well as the improper emptying of the bladder. Additional poor habits can include: urinating with her legs together or in a squat/hover position (this reduces the ability for the muscles to relax or for the urine to fully exit), not wiping sufficiently to remove the urine from the skin, and using irritating lye-based soaps.

Urinary Tract Infections in Younger Girls

How to Reduce Your Chances of Developing a UTI

To help prevent the infections from developing, the source of bacteria needs to be eliminated (reducing constipation by increasing bowel routines), the pathway needs to be inhospitable (keeping the perineum clean) and the bladder needs to stay empty. Additional strategies to reduce the chances of developing a UTI include: drinking enough water to stay hydrated, allowing for proper motility of the bowels, increasing opportunities for voiding, and diluting the urine to reduce the opportunity for bacteria to grow and develop.

There are additional risk factors that can contribute to UTIs or raise your chances of getting a UTI. These include:

  • Female gender, secondary to shorter urethra
  • Constipation
  • Immunocompromised
  • Menopause, secondary to reduction in estrogen
  • Urinary tract abnormalities
  • Catheter usage
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder or holding urine in for too long

Common Symptoms of a UTI in Young Girls

Symptoms of UTIs vary by individual and sometimes younger children will not outwardly express irritation or pain. Younger children may signal a UTI through bedwetting (enuresis) or increased leaking of urine throughout the day. Other symptoms can include:

  • Feeling of incomplete emptying
  • Increased frequency
  • Burning or pain with urination
  • Foul odor
  • Different coloration in urine
  • Abdominal, pelvic or lower back pain

In order to reduce the chances of young girls developing UTIs, it is best to encourage the intake of water, keeping the bladder empty, keeping the bowels moving and keeping the skin clean.

Helman, A. Morgenstern, J., Morris, A. (2017, April 12). Episode 94 UTI Myths and Misconceptions. Retrieved from https://emergencymedicinecases.com/uti-myths-misconceptions/

Hodges, Steve J. (2016, December 6). Why 1 Million Girls a Year Get UTIs. Retrieved from https://www.bedwettingandaccidents.com/single-post/2016/12/06/The-Real-Reason-Young-Girls-Get-UTIs

Hodges, Steve J. It’s No Accident. Lyons Press, 2012.

Mayo Clinic. (1998-2018). Urinary tract infections (UTI).Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447?DSECTION=all&p=1

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