The kidneys are paired, bean-shaped organs located below the ribs on either side of the spine. They are a part of the urinary tract, which also includes ureters, bladder, and the urethra. Each kidney produces urine, which is drained down into the bladder through a tube called the ureter. Urine is stored in the bladder, and flushed out of the body through the urethral opening. Though the urine is sterile, bacteria might sometimes travel from the anus to urethra. When the bacteria travel to the bladder, these can cause cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). If the bacteria travel up to the kidneys through the ureters and multiply, it gives rise to a kidney infection. Medically referred to as pyelonephritis, a kidney infection could result in damage to the kidneys, if left untreated.
Contributing Factors and Symptoms
The infection occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract, and travel up to the kidneys. Medical conditions wherein the flow of urine is obstructed could also be contributing factors. For instance, children affected by kidney stones might be at a risk. Similarly, a blockage in the ureter can be another cause for pyelonephritis.
The signs of pyelonephritis in children could appear suddenly, or might develop within a short span of time. More often than not, the affected child would experience fever, chills, or malaise. The following symptoms might be experienced by children affected by a kidney infection:
- Pain while urinating
- Mild fever, which may rise to 101 degrees or even higher, if left untreated
- Loose bowel movements and diarrhea
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Foul-smelling urine
- Shivering and vomiting
- Nausea and loss of appetite
- Convulsions or fits
- Bed wetting and frequent urination
Diagnosis and Treatment
This condition can be diagnosed with the help of urinalysis. If the underlying cause seems to be a kidney stone, then doctors might recommend imaging tests such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or X-ray examination. The treatment involves the administration of antibiotics, which can be given intravenously or through a drip. Hospitalization is required in case of a severe kidney infection, where the patient is not responding well to the antibiotics. Also, fluids might be administered in case of children who are at a risk of dehydration due to frequent urination. Painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be given to ease the pain and treat fever. If the tests indicate that the infection is due to a kidney stone, blockage of the ureter, or any abnormality, then the patient has to undergo a surgery.
A kidney infection may develop at any age and is more common in girls than boys. Though it occurs rarely, if not treated in the early stages, it can cause severe complications like septicemia (blood poisoning) and abscesses (a space filled with pus) in the kidney. Drinking plenty of fluids and practicing hygiene (wiping from front to back after bowel movements) can help in preventing an infection.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.