Pyelonephritis is the medical term for a kidney infection.
What is Pyelonephritis?
Pyelonephritis is the medical term for a kidney infection. The most common cause of acute kidney infections in children is from a bacterial urinary tract infection (UTI) that has spread from the bladder to the kidneys. The bacteria trigger inflammation and the kidneys respond by producing more urine, which leads to dehydration.
The inflammation and dehydration from just one kidney infection can result in scarring that can cause high blood pressure and reduced kidney function. Therefore, it is critical that children who have a UTI and fever, especially those under the age of 2, receive prompt medical care to prevent possible permanent kidney damage. Repeat acute kidney infections can ultimately lead to the need for a kidney transplant. In very rare cases, untreated pyelonephritis can cause death.
What Are the Symptoms of an Acute Kidney Infection?
Signs and symptoms vary with age:
- Newborns: no fever but poor feeding and vomiting
- Children <2: may have a fever (but not always), a poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhea
- Children >2: fever, appetite changes, stomach or lower back pain, symptoms of urgency, frequency and pain with urination
If a toilet trained child is having accidents during the day or night, it may be a sign of an infection. Typically a child’s urine will have a strong, foul odor, and there may be blood in the urine.
How do the Kidneys Become Infected?
Acute kidney infections are typically caused by bacteria that has gotten into the urethra (the opening where urine comes out) and traveled up through the bladder and ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Some medical conditions such as bladder dysfunction, bladder obstruction, neurogenic bladder or vesicoureteral reflux (VUR) along with conditions that require the use of catheters can also increase the chances of kidney infection and damage.
What Can I do to Help Prevent My Child from Getting a Kidney Infection?
If you suspect your child has a UTI, get them prompt medical treatment to help prevent the UTI from turning into a kidney infection. Here are some tips for preventing UTIs.
While preventative antibiotics have been found to reduce the number of recurrent UTIs, there isn’t any evidence that their use decreases the risk of kidney infection or scarring. Uncircumcised boys that are less than one year old are ten times more likely to get UTIs than circumcised boys, but by age two the risk decreases and circumcision does not have an effect on infection rates.
How is an Acute Kidney Infection Diagnosed?
A simple urine test combined with an overview of the symptoms is usually enough to confirm a kidney infection. If you have a child that keeps getting UTIs with fevers, physicians may recommend an ultrasound of the kidneys that can help identify any underlying issues.
How Are Acute Kidney Infections Treated?
Children are typically given oral antibiotics to take at home. However, if the infection is advanced, a child may receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics in the hospital. Staying well hydrated is an extremely important part of treatment, and children should drink plenty of fluids during and after treatment. There is evidence that good hydration during recovery may help reduce long-term kidney damage.
When Should I Take My Child to a Pediatric Urologist?
A referral to a Pediatric Urologist is recommended if an ultrasound reveals any abnormalities in kidney function or appearance.
Urology Clinic: (614) 722-6630
Nurse Line: (614) 722-3145
Appointment Line: (614) 722-6200
View our Urology Locations
You Might Also Be Interested In
Anti-Urinary Reflux Surgery
In many children with reflux, the urine tubes meet up with the bladder with minimal muscle support. Thus pee goes back up the urine tubes to the kidney when the bladder squeezes to go pee. Anti-urinary reflux surgery helps stop this backward flow.
Ileovesicostomy helps urine (pee) drain from the bladder into a bag or pouch attached to the belly, without a catheter.
Mitrofanoff Procedure (Appendicovesicostomy)
The Mitrofanoff procedure creates a new tube on a child’s belly through which a child can urinate by using a catheter. The new tube is made from the appendix.