My wife and I were recently given quite a scare when our newborn son--less than three weeks old--was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection (UTI) and had to spend a week in the hospital. Though UTIs in babies don't happen often, they happen enough that parents should be aware of what to look for and what to expect if their child contracts a UTI.
1. UTI or no UTI, a fever of 100.4 or higher in a baby younger than 3 months qualifies as a "medical emergency." In this situation, doctors advise that parents seek immediate medical attention (often the ER) for their child. This way, doctors can run blood, urine and other tests to determine whether the fever is viral (fighting off a virus) or bacterial (fighting off an infection). If the fever has been caused by an infection (often a UTI) it is important the child be put on antibiotics as soon as possible to fight the infection, hence the reason why doctors recommend infants with fevers be brought in immediately.
2. Infants cannot tell you what is going on with them, so their symptoms of a UTI will be different than an adult. Other than a fever, they might include:
- Strange smelling urine
- Crying during and after urination
- Not eating or vomiting
- Acting differently or more fussy than usual
3. If the infant does have a UTI, several things are likely to happen. Depending on the age of the infant, protocol of the hospital and the type of UTI, the hospital is likely to recommend the infant remain in the hospital on antibiotics and under observation for a few days, a week or more. Doctors might also recommend running more tests to determine:
- What kind of bacteria is causing the infection and what antibiotic will be the most effective in destroying it.
- Whether the infection is also in the blood or in the spinal fluid (meningitis). This requires a bood draw or spinal tap.
- Whether there are anatomical abnormalities that might have caused the infection, or whether the infection came from outside of the body. This requires an ultrasound.
4. Children and sick people should not to visit your infant in the hospital. Children can give and receive illnesses to and from other children who are patients. Obviously, sick people can do the same thing.
5. It is important to have an extremely open line of communication with the doctors in charge your infant's care. It is not uncommon for one nurse or doctor to tell you one thing and another provider to tell you something entirely different. Your infant's medical team is not always on the same page, so it is important to make sure that they are. When providers make a visit to your room:
- They do not come around often, so do not let them rush you. Make sure you have asked all the questions you have an understand the answers given. If it helps, write the questions down before they come visit.
- Make sure they are fully aware of any inconsistent or conflicting information you are being given by someone else. Tell them you were told something different, and tell them exactly who told you. Ask if they will talk with that person so that the inconsistency can be addressed and clarified. If the inconsistency is due to a difference of opinion, ask them why they are different.
- Get your regular pediatrician involved in the conversation. Since she probably has a better understanding of your specific child, she might have different thoughts about the child's treatment and care. Her thoughts need to be shared with the rest of the team.
6. If there is a patient advocacy group, take advantage of that service. Though many nurses and doctors have excellent bedside manner and want to make you as comfortable as possible during your stay, others are not so friendly, and the hospital overall is a miserable place to be. Patient advocacy groups are specifically designed to fight for your needs, listen to your concerns, show compassion and sympathy for your situation and make you as comfortable as possible.
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