Leukocytes are white blood cells such as granulocytes, monocytes and lymphocytes. The National Cancer Institute states that leukocytes are an immune cell. This means they are important for fighting off infections. If an excess of these leukocytes are found in urine, it can be a sign that there may be an infection present. In children, this increase in leukocytes is most likely due to a urinary tract infection. According to the American Family Physician website, 5 percent of girls and 1 to 2 percent of boys will develop a urinary tract infection.
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There are several symptoms to watch for if you suspect that your child may have an infection or leukocytes in his urine. He may have difficulty urinating and the urine can smell bad. Fever, chills, abdomen pain, nausea and vomiting are also signs of a urinary infection. Keep in mind that these symptoms may be related to other problems and testing will have to be done to confirm a urinary tract infection.
A urinalysis is the definitive way to diagnose leukocytes and inflammation in the urinary tract. The American Family Physician website recommends this test any time your child has had an unexplained fever for more than several days. MayoClinic.com states that leukocyte esterase and nitrates are both produced because of an infection and, if found in urine, they are commonly signs of a urinary tract infection.
Treatment for children who have high leukocyte esterase in the urine can begin immediately. The Merck Manual states that antibiotics can be given to these children in an attempt to eliminate the infection. If the urinary tract infection caused any damage to the kidneys or other urinary structures, a more extensive treatment plan will need to be made. The American Family Physician website recommends hospitalization for children under the age of 3 months or if symptoms are severe.
There are some preventative steps that can be taken to lower the chances your child will develop a urinary tract infection. For girls, it is imperative that they learn to wipe from front to back to avoid transferring any fecal bacteria into the urinary tract.
A doctor needs to evaluate your child if you think she may have leukocytes in her urine. If your child has been taking extra vitamin C or eating a lot of protein, you should mention this to the pediatrician. According to Medline Plus, an excess of both protein or vitamin C can lead to a negative test, even when there are leukocytes present.