Monitoring children’s bowel and bladder habits helps parents pinpoint potential signs of health problems. Strong urine may possess an unusually potent odor or appearance and could arise as a natural result of diet changes or indicate a more serious health disorder. Learning the facts about strong urine in children can help you learn to distinguish between innocuous urine changes and those that warrant a trip to your child’s pediatrician.
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A waste product secreted by the kidneys, urine collects in your child’s bladder and eventually exits the body through the urethra. According to Dr. Robert B. Nadler, contributing author for the book “Adult and Pediatric Urology,” a yellowish brown pigment called urochrome determines the color of your child’s urine; the actual tint of the urine fluctuates, depending upon the amount of urine your child produces in a particular time frame. Normal urine varies in color but is typically pale yellow to amber in appearance and possesses a mild odor.
Common causes for strong urine in children include dehydration and urinary tract infections. Dehydration--lack of adequate fluid and salt in your child’s body--may develop as a result of decreased fluid intake, as well as excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhea. In certain cases, dark-colored or strong-smelling urine may also arise with a urinary tract infection, a potentially serious health condition that occurs when bacteria take over part of your child’s urinary tract. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, or NKUDIC, 3 percent of U.S. children develop a urinary tract infection each year.
In addition to unusually dark or intense-smelling urine, several other symptoms often occur with dehydration, including sunken eyes, a sticky mouth, decreased urine output and lack of tears when crying. Urinary tract infections may cause foul-smelling urine, as well as a fever, burning during urination, excessive irritability and more frequent urination. Depending upon the severity of your child’s urinary tract infection, the urine may also be cloudy or have a pinkish tinge from blood.
In many cases, short-term changes in your child’s urine odor or color are normal. Dr. Nadler notes that pigments in certain foods, such as beets and berries, can impart a brighter color to your child’s urine for a brief time. Urine often has a slightly more intense odor in the morning and it could develop an unusual smell after consuming certain foods, like asparagus, as well, notes Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D., coauthor of the book “Baby Body Signs.” In most situations, this type of urine irregularity resolves on its own within eight to 12 hours and isn’t accompanied by any other signs of illness.
Strong-smelling or dark-colored urine resulting from a urinary tract infection requires immediate medical attention due to the possibility of developing a kidney infection. Your child’s doctor will typically test a urine sample for the presence of bacteria and provide treatment in the form of antibiotics. Untreated urinary tract infections may allow the bacterial infection to spread to your child’s kidneys, which could lead to multiple complications, including permanent kidney damage and blood poisoning. Signs of a possible kidney infection include chills, fever, nausea, severe abdominal pain and vomiting.
- “Adult and Pediatric Urology”; Dr. Robert B. Nadler et al; 2002
- NKUDIC: Urinary Tract Infections in Children
- “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child;" Dr. Stephen Shelov; 2009
- “Baby Body Signs;" Joan Liebmann-Smith Ph.D. et al; 2010
- Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia: Urinary Tract Infection - Children