Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in general, and those affecting the lower part of the urinary tract in particular, i.e. cystitis, are the second most important cause of infections treated in Primary Care, after respiratory infections. We explain how to prevent them in children in winter.
A man walks next to a statue of a urinating angel in Havana, Cuba. EFE/Rolando Pujol
UTIs, and specifically cystitis in both winter and summer and which are equally common in adults and children, occur when some pathogenic bacteria, usually E. coli (Escherichia coli), which is in our intestine, colonizes the skin surrounding the urethra and through it accesses the urinary bladder and even the kidneys.
The change in habits and greater exposure to the cold, which can lead to a greater need to go to the bathroom and multiply the chances of infection, mean an increase in this type of condition in winter.
Thus, the symptoms of urinary infections, including winter cystitis, in the little ones are very variedfrom wetting the bed or having pain when urinating to fever, lack of appetite or vomiting, among others.
UTIs are more frequent in girlsdue to the fact that its urethra is shorter and favors the transmission of bacteria from the outside towards the urinary tract.
In addition, the distance between the exit hole of the urethra, the entrance of the vagina, and the exit hole of the intestine is very short, and this makes it easy for intestinal bacteria to enter the urethra.
“Up to 30% of children who have had a first episode of an uncomplicated urinary tract infection, such as cystitis, will have a new episode,” explains Dr. Ana Ortiz, manager of Farmasierra’s health area.
For this reason, the specialist indicates, recurrence becomes “a problem of epidemiological, health and social dimensions, which will cause children and parents to seek assistance from pediatricians frequently and repeatedly, in addition to being exposed to the administration of antibiotic treatments during each episode of infection”
Tips against cystitis in children in winter
The cold sensitizes the nerve endings of the kidneys and bladder. This sensitization process also means that the bladder and kidneys are more vulnerable to infection.
Preventing cystitis in children in winter is possible by following a series of essential habits to contribute to the well-being of the little ones:
1.- If possible, practice the breast feeding during the first six months of life to promote the correct development of the baby’s immune system and reduce the risk of constipation.
2.- Make sure the child drinks enough. In winter, having less activity and sweating less, the feeling of thirst is not as strong as in summer (neither in adults nor in children).
Keeping them hydrated is essential to prevent urinary tract infections. Of course, don’t replace water with sugary drinks. A good alternative are hot infusions.
3.- Make them have to urinate regularly, as soon as they feel the need. Go to the bathroom every 3-4 hours, without holding the urine once the urge to urinate occurs.
The longer the urine is retained, the better conditions and chances the bacteria will have to reproduce.
4.- Avoid constipation with the help of your pediatrician’s advice. Usually, giving them different fruits and vegetables is enough for the child’s bowel to go properly.
Sometimes it is useful and convenient the intake of probioticsboth through natural and rich foods (such as yogurt), and through some specific supplement.
5.- Carry out proper cleaning from the genital area to the little ones, with frequent diaper changes and always cleaning from front to back so as not to drag bacteria from the anus into the genital area.
6.- Teach the children practicing proper intimate hygiene helps minimize the chances of bacteria reaching the urethra.
7.- Put them on cotton underwear instead of synthetic fabrics like nylon helps prevent the growth of bacteria.
The more synthetic the material of the underwear, we create a better environment for bacterial reproduction: warm and moist. That’s why we have to ensure that the little ones wear comfortable and warm, but breathable clothesto reduce this risk.
8.- Take American Cranberry: in addition to being free of side effects and contraindications, it increases the protection of the urinary tract against the bacteria that cause cystitis. In short, its high content a potassium helps children stay hydrated.
Regarding this and according to Dr. Ana Ortiz, the red cranberry “is able to prevent the adhesion of bacteria to the epithelium of the urinary tract (anti-adherent power), preventing the invasion of germs in the urinary tract, especially in the case of E.coliwhich appears in 80-90% of uncomplicated infections”.