Urine Tests

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Parents

Doctors order urine tests for kids to make sure that the kidneys and certain other organs are functioning properly, or when they suspect that a child might have an infection in the kidneys, bladder, or other parts of the urinary tract.

The kidneys make urine as they filter wastes from the bloodstream while leaving substances in the blood that the body needs, like protein and glucose. So when urine contains glucose, too much protein, or has other irregularities, it's usually a sign of a health problem.

Urinalysis

A urinalysis is usually ordered when a doctor suspects that a child has a urinary tract infection or a health problem that can cause an abnormality in the urine. This test can measure:

  • the number and variety of red and white blood cells
  • the presence of bacteria or other organisms
  • the presence of substances, such as glucose, that usually shouldn't be found in the urine
  • the pH, which shows how acidic or basic the urine is
  • the concentration of the urine

Sometimes, when the urine contains white blood cells or protein, or the test results seem abnormal for another reason, it's because of how or when the urine was collected. For example, a dehydrated child may have concentrated urine (darker urine) or a small amount of protein in the urine.

But that may not necessarily mean that there's a health problem. Once the child is rehydrated, these "abnormal" results may disappear. Depending on the amount of protein or other cells in the urine, the doctor may repeat the urine test at another time, just to make sure that everything is back to normal.

How a Urinalysis Is Done

In most cases, urine is collected in a clean container, then a small plastic strip that has patches of chemicals on it (the dipstick) is placed in the urine. The patches change color to indicate things like the presence of white blood cells or glucose.

Next, the doctor or laboratory technologist also usually examines the same urine sample under a microscope to check for other substances that indicate different conditions.

If either the urine dipstick test or the microscopic test shows white blood cells, red blood cells, or bacteria — which may mean that there's an infection in the kidneys or the bladder — the doctor may decide to send the urine to a lab for a urine culture to identify bacteria that may be causing the infection.

Getting a urine sample. It can be difficult to get urine samples from kids to analyze for a possible infection. That's because the skin around the urinary opening normally is home to some of the same bacteria that cause infections in the urinary tract. If these bacteria contaminate the urine, the doctors may not be able to use the sample to tell if there is a true infection or not.

To avoid this, the skin surrounding the urinary opening has to be cleaned and rinsed immediately before the urine is collected. In this "clean-catch" method, the patient (or parent) cleans the skin around the urinary opening. The child then urinates, stops momentarily (if the child is old enough to cooperate), then urinates again into the collection container. Catching the urine in "midstream" is the goal.

In some cases, like when the child is not yet toilet trained, the doctor or nurse will insert a catheter (a narrow, soft tube) through the urinary tract opening into the bladder to get the urine sample.

If you have any questions about urine tests, talk with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: September 2011
Originally reviewed by: Frederick A. Meier, MD



Related Resources

OrganizationNational Kidney Foundation (NKF) NKF seeks to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increase the availability of all organs for transplantation.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
Web SiteLab Tests Online This non-commercial site was developed by laboratory professionals to educate caregivers, patients, and patients' families about lab tests.


Related Articles

Urine Test: Routine Culture A urine culture is used to diagnose a urinary tract infection (UTI) and determine what kinds of germs are causing it.
Urine Test: Dipstick A urine dipstick test is often done as part of an overall urinalysis. The results of this test can help doctors diagnose a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney disease, diabetes, or a urinary tract injury.
Urine Test: Automated Dipstick Urinalysis Automated dipstick urinalysis results may point to a urinary tract infection (UTI) or injury, kidney disease, or diabetes.
Urine Test: Microalbumin-to-Creatinine Ratio The microalbumin-to-creatinine ratio test is most commonly used to screen for kidney problems in teens with diabetes. It may also be used to monitor kidney function in kids and teens who have a kidney disease.
Kidney Diseases in Childhood The kidneys play a critical role in health. When something goes wrong, it could indicate a kidney disease. What are kidney diseases, and how can they be treated?
Urinary Tract Infections Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in kids, but often can be prevented. Early detection and treatment are key.
Urine Test: Creatinine Low levels of creatinine in the urine may point to a kidney disease, certain muscular and neuromuscular disorders, or an obstruction of the urinary tract.
Urine Test: Calcium A urine calcium test can help monitor or determine the cause of kidney stones and other kidney diseases, or detect overactivity or underactivity in the parathyroid glands.
Urine Test: Protein The urine protein test is most commonly used to screen for kidney disease and also can help monitor kidney function.
Kidneys and Urinary Tract The bean-shaped kidneys, each about the size of a child's fist, perform several functions essential to health. Their most important role is to filter blood and produce urine.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2012 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.



 

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