With smaller bladders, frequent urination in young children is common and may not necessarily signal urinary problems. However, if your child is visiting the bathroom every 10 to 30 minutes and expelling only small amounts of urine you may need to visit your pediatrician.
The age in which a child has full control of his bladder varies, but successful toilet training happens when your child's bladder matures. According to UptoDate, a clinical decision tool, 85 to 95 percent of children are completely toilet trained by the age of 10. However, it's not uncommon for children ages 4 to 5 years old to experience urine frequency. Oftentimes, a child may have the urge to use the toilet even when there is no true physical need to do so. Research suggests frequent urination happens more often in young boys and usually resolves without the need for treatment.
Causes of Frequent Urination
The reasons for frequent urination are varied. Although it's a common condition, it should never be dismissed as it may signal a more serious health concern. Consider the following causes:
Overactive bladder (OAB) often happens in the pediatric population. It is the most common bladder dysfunction after bedwetting. According to a 2017 study published in the Canadian Urological Association Journal, OAB was prevalent in 15 to 20 percent of the young school-aged children; reported more often in boys. Researchers also noted OAB generally decreased with age, as 12.2 percent of 13-year-olds were reported to have this condition compared to 23.0 percent of five-years-olds.
There are a number of symptoms associated with this condition. Your child may:
- Use the bathroom more often than normal
- Have a lower urine output
- Lose control of his bladder
Treating Overactive Bladder
Generally, children outgrow this condition and providers will take a conservative approach to treating this dysfunction, by implementing changes to toilet habits. These include:
- Implementing timed urination schedules
- Treating constipation, if present
- Modifying the diet: avoiding caffeine and other ingredients that may encourage overactive bladder
- Adopting healthy toilet habits such as relaxing muscles during urination and taking time to urinate
Overactive Bladder Medication
Your child's practitioner may suggest pharmaceutical treatment if conservative measures fail. Often health care providers prescribe oxybutynin, a medication which helps the bladder relax and prevents urinary problems.
Your child's provider may also suggest managing constipation with the use of a laxative. Using laxatives as indicated can help clear bowls which may be contributing to an overactive bladder.
Urinary Tract Infections
If your loved one is complaining of pain or burning with urination and has a frequent need to urinate, he may be experiencing a urinary tract infection (UTI). Acute urinary tract infections happen more often in children, as 8 percent of girls and 2 percent of boys suffer at least one episode by the age of seven. A UTI develops when bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E.coli), enters the bladder or kidneys and causes an infection.
UptoDate, notes there are several risk factors that contribute to a UTI including:
- Young age: Boys under the age of one and girls younger than four years old have a higher risk of infection.
- Being uncircumcised: Uncircumcised boys are 4 to 10 times more likely to experience a UTI compared to circumcised boys. (However, most uncircumcised boys do not develop UTIs.)
- History of UTI: Having one UTI increases the risk slightly for developing future UTIs.
- Constipation or bowel dysfunction.
There are a number of symptoms associated with this infection. According to the University of Michigan Health System, symptoms may include:
- Burning with urination (this is the most common symptom)
- Using the bathroom more often than normal:
- Having a strong urge to urinate but not passing much urine
- Blood in urine (color may appear pink, red or brown)
- Strong or foul-smelling urine
- Fever higher than 100.4C
- Pain in the belly
- Pain below the rib cage and above the waist on one or both sides of the back
- Vaginal discharge
- Sudden onset of new daytime wetting in a potty-trained child
Antibiotics are used to treat urinary tract infections. The type of antibiotic selected will depend on your child's age and the kind of bacteria causing the infection. Most often, your health care practitioner will prescribe liquid or chewable medication your child will take for 5 to 10 days.
Your child should begin to feel better within 24 to 48 hours after starting the medication. Generally, there are no long-term effects from the infection.
When to Seek Help
It is best to make an appointment with your child's health care practitioner within 24 hours if you suspect your child may have a urinary tract infection. If your child continues to experience symptoms, or his symptoms worsen, schedule a follow-up appointment as soon as possible.
A toilet-trained child that has more frequent and small urination, may be suffering from pollakiuria. Children, ages five to six years old, experience this disorder most often. However, it can happen in children as young as 3 or as old as 14. This condition usually lasts on average for 7 to 12 months. Although it may be upsetting for both you and your child, this disorder is harmless and generally clears up by itself.
Symptoms of Pollakiuria
It may be difficult to distinguish this disorder from other bladder dysfunction conditions. If your child is experiencing pollakiuria, generally he will not have any changes to his bowel habits, drinking habits or exhibit any signs of infection. Pollakiuria symptoms may include:
- A sudden need to urinate, going as often as every 5 to 10 minutes, even if he's toilet trained
- Urinating without pain
- Urinating only small amounts of urine at a time
Treatment for Pollakiuria
According to a 2013 study included in Contemporary Pediatrics, pollakiuria is most effectively treated by focusing on behavior change, namely:
- Reassuring your child the condition will eventually resolve
- Identifying the emotional trigger and allowing your child to talk to you about what worries her may help relieve symptoms
- Implementing a variable timed urination schedule
When to Seek Help
If your loved one is experiencing pain or burning with urination, schedule an appointment with your provider right away.
Type I Diabetes
When your child starts to make frequent trips to the bathroom, you may be inclined to think she is suffering from diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disorder with sudden symptom onset but only five percent of individuals living with diabetes have Type 1.
Type 1 diabetes occurs most often in children and young adults but it can appear at any age. Classic symptoms may include:
- Frequent urination
- Dehydration which results in drinking large amounts of fluid
- Weight loss
If you are at all concerned your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment to see her health care provider. Your practitioner may conduct blood and urine tests to check glucose, insulin, and ketone levels.
When to Seek help
Type I Diabetes can become serious if left untreated. Seek immediate care if your child experiences:
- Pain in the belly
- Rapid breathing and drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
Frequent urination can interfere with your child's daily activities. Patience, understanding and open communication with your child's provider, will help ensure suitable actions are taken to best manage his condition.