Antibiotics for Urinary Tract Infections in Children

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Antibiotics for Urinary Tract Infections in Children


Generic NameBrand Name
amoxicillin and clavulanateClavulin
nitrofurantoin Macrobid
sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim Septra

How It Works

These antibiotics kill the bacteria that commonly cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children.

Most antibiotics come in pill or liquid form. Some antibiotics may be given as a shot. The doctor may give antibiotics in the vein (intravenously) if your child is younger than 2 to 3 months old, is very ill or nauseated, or has a severe kidney infection.

Why It Is Used

Antibiotics treat a UTI and prevent complications of infection such as kidney damage.

Antibiotics also prevent infections in children who have had or may be at risk for recurrent UTIs. The doctor might prescribe preventive antibiotic therapy if your child has:

  • Had more than two UTIs in a 6-month period.
  • A structural problem, such as vesicoureteral reflux, that increases the risk of additional infections.

Doctors are undecided about how long a child should take preventive antibiotics. But some experts believe that long-term use of low-dose antibiotics can safely prevent UTIs in children, especially in children who have vesicoureteral reflux.1 Whether long-term antibiotics prevent kidney damage needs more study.

How Well It Works

Antibiotics are effective in curing most UTIs. Your child should feel better within 48 hours after starting the medicine. If your child doesn't feel better, call your doctor. Your doctor probably will prescribe a different antibiotic.

Side Effects

Common side effects of antibiotics used to treat UTIs include:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Mild diarrhea.

Severe allergic reactions to antibiotics are unusual but do occur. They include:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Being very tired.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Chest pain.
  • Skin rashes, hives, or itching.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Give your child the antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of medicine. If your child does not take all of the antibiotics as prescribed, the infection may return. Not taking the full course of medicine also encourages the development of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. This makes antibiotics less effective and bacterial infections harder to treat. Antibiotic resistance among bacteria that cause UTIs has increased steadily in recent decades. Your doctor may have to prescribe different antibiotics, and different combinations of antibiotics, to find the right medicine that will kill the bacteria causing your child's UTI.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Craig JC, et al. (2009). Antibiotic prophylaxis and recurrent urinary tract infection in children. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(18): 1748–1759.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last Revised May 2, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.