Drug Information

Antibiotics for Urinary Tract Infections in Children

Antibiotics for Urinary Tract Infections in Children


Generic Name Brand Name
amoxicillin and clavulanate Clavulin
cefixime Suprax
cephalexin Keflex
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 a few UTIs in a 6- to 12-month period.
  • Has 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. Whether long-term antibiotics prevent kidney damage needs more study.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don’t feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking the medicine unless your doctor says so.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Other signs of a severe allergic reaction include fever or chills, chest pain, skin rashes, hives, itching, or being very tired.

Stop using this medicine and call your doctor right away if your child has any unusual symptoms, including:

  • Cough.
  • The start of a skin rash.
  • Your child’s skin becomes pale, bruised-looking, or yellow.
  • Bloody stools.
  • Severe diarrhea or diarrhea lasting more than 2 or 3 days.
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes (peripheral neuropathy).
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Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Mild diarrhea.
  • Headache.

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

What To Think About

It is important that your child drinks enough fluid when taking these medicines.

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 areresistant to antibiotics .

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.

These medicines may cause liver problems or anemia. This is more likely to happen if these medicines are taken for a long period of time. Your doctor may recommend tests if your child shows signs of having either of these problems.

If your child is allergic to penicillin, your child should not be given amoxicillin.

If your child is allergic to cephalosporins, penicillins, or other drugs, your child should not be given cephalexin. If your child has a kidney or liver disease, has stomach or intestinal problems (such as colitis), or is malnourished, your child may need tests before being given this medicine. Your doctor may also need to adjust the dose of the medicine.

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Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child’s health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn’t take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Follow-up care is a key part of your child’s treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your child’s test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Last Revised: April 26, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: John Pope, MD – Pediatrics & Avery L. Seifert, MD – Urology