A UTI or urinary tract infection is one of the most common infections in the United States. While it is mostly prevalent in women, it can also affect babies and elderly patients. UTIs basically occur because bacteria enter the urethra (the tube that carries the urine from the bladder, outside the body) causing an infection. Since the urethra is shorter in women and girls compared to those in males, their risk of developing such infections is greater. In babies, wet or soiled diapers left unchanged for prolonged periods can also increase the risk of frequent UTI. Let us study all about diaper or pull ups related UTIs (diaper urine infection) in kids and elderly patients.
Can the use of diapers cause frequent UTIs in babies and urine-incontinent adults?
A study conducted in 2010 March has proven that superabsorbent diapers can lead to UTIs in girls less than 2 years. Nearly 3-5% of girls and 1% of boys up to 5 years old are known to suffer a UTI. If not checked, these infections can lead to potential complications like renal scarring, early age renal disease and hypertension. The symptoms of UTI are often hard to treat and notice in younger children. They include: abdominal pain, cloudy urine, unusual smelling urine, lethargy and fever. As can be seen, these symptoms are similar to those of other conditions and hence diagnosis is often difficult. In elderly bed ridden female patients, the use of diapers can also lead to UTIs. The risk also increases in catheter-assisted patients. Caregivers must therefore monitor symptoms and ensure quick treatment. Often, a low dose prophylactic antibiotic is used for preventing infections in bed-ridden and catheter-based patients.
Can wet diapers cause UTIs in babies and elderly patients?
Wet and soiled diapers that are not changed for prolonged periods of time can lead to various skin diseases and infections in babies and elderly patients. The fecal matter easily enters cuts and skin sores causing secondary skin infections. In girl child, the vagina is very close to the urethra and anus. The germs from the anus and the diaper can easily enter the urinary tract and subsequently the bladder. Caregivers must therefore change the diapers and use antibacterial wipes to clean the skin. As far as possible, leave the child without diaper so the skin remains dry. Parents should focus on potty training the child quickly.
- Girls must be taught from an early age to wipe from front to back rather than back to front after having bowel movement or after urination. This will minimize the bacteria towards the urethra. They must also be taught to clean the vulva daily to lower bacteria in the perineum.
- Babies with frequent UTIs must not be bathed with fancy smelling soaps or bubble baths.
- Girls must not use tight nylon panties and skinny tights or jeans.
- Parents and caregivers must feed plenty of fluids to babies and toddlers having frequent Urinary tract infections and urge their ward to urinate frequently.
- Caregivers of elderly patients must monitor their patients for UTIs. It is important to change diapers from time to time.
- When girls start menstruating, they must be taught to change the pads every 4 hours. This will reduce the bacteria in the vagina.
- If symptoms of UTI occur, patients must be given the full dose of antibiotics. Failure to take complete dose can cause the bacteria to proliferate and the infection to recur.
- Sexually active women should urinate after sexual intercourse to remove bacteria forced into the urethra by pressure.
- Pure unsweetened cranberry juice is known to acidify the urine. This can prevent UTIs to an extent.
Urine incontinence in adults
Many women become incontinent after child birth and during menopausal years. This is because of the weak pelvic muscles which are unable to hold the urine. Stress urine incontinence is very common and it causes urine leakage upon sneezing, coughing or laughing etc. Any action that puts pressure on the womb can cause urine leakage in incontinent women. Diapers are not only embarrassing, they are also expensive to use. Urine incontinence is known to cost 1000s of dollars annually on laundry, diapers and absorbent pads. So, women must not take urine incontinence lightly. Talk to your doctor as soon as you notice signs of incontinence. Today, there are medicines available to get rid of this problem and apart from medicines; you can also practice pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles. Exercises like swimming can also tighten the vaginal walls and prevent urine leaks.
Parents and caregivers of toddlers or elderly patients in diapers must not take UTI lightly. A girl child or an older patient having more than 3 urine infections per annum must be referred to urologists. Doctors must perform a complete assessment of the exact cause of uti. The signs and symptoms of UTI, cystitis, ureteritis and pyelonepheritis can often be confusing. The typical symptoms that arise in kids and adults, such as pain on urination, frequent urination and bloody urine etc may not be present or are often overlooked by caregivers. In some patients, the pain may be confined to the bladder and s/he may have low grade fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and general malaise. Women with incontinence need to take steps for prevention.