MONDAY, April 2, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- When parents say their child's urine smells bad, doctors should test for a urinary tract infection, Canadian researchers report.
To examine the link between smelly urine and urinary tract infections (UTIs), researchers from Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center at the University of Montreal surveyed the parents of 331 children ranging in age from 1 month to 3 years who were tested in the emergency room for a suspected UTI.
The study revealed smelly urine was the risk factor most strongly linked to UTI -- 57 percent of the children who tested positive for a UTI had smelly urine, while only 32 percent of children who tested negative did.
Although stinky urine increases the likelihood that a child has a UTI, the researchers admitted that this symptom alone isn't enough to make a diagnosis.
The findings were published online April 2 in the May 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Pediatricians agreed that stinky urine may be one of the few signs that a young child has a UTI.
"UTIs in children can present in several different ways depending on the age of the child," said Dr. Estevan Garcia, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. "Young children do not often complain of pain or burning when they urinate. UTIs are especially difficult to diagnose in very young infants, where fever may be the only symptom."
Dr. Roya Samuels, a pediatrician at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said: "Although associated with UTIs in this study, malodorous urine may also be associated with an array of noninfectious causes, including dehydration or the consumption of certain foods, medications or vitamins.
"Clinical decision-making rules regarding UTIs in children do not include taking into account parental reports regarding the smell of a child's urine," Samuels added. "This study suggests that perhaps urine odor be included in the diagnostic algorithm for UTIs in young children with fever of unknown source."
The U.S. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse provides more information on UTIs in children.