Kids Health Info

Urine tests

  • A urine test is the only way to know for sure if your child has a urine infection. Urine infections cause children to have high temperatures and become unwell. Sometimes they can make children seriously ill, especially babies and young children.

    Urine infections cannot be diagnosed with urine from a bag specimen. It is important that the urine is obtained from your child in a germ-free (sterile) way. If your child has a urine infection they may need other tests and treatment. See fact sheet: Urinary tract infection.

    Ways to collect urine for testing

    Babies and small children can't wee into a pot when asked. There are four possible ways to get urine from babies:

    • Bag specimen
      A bag is stuck to the skin inside the nappy to catch urine. This is easy, but sometimes the bag leaks and it takes several attempts to get some wee. The other problem is that germs from the skin may get into the urine. This makes it look like your child has an infection even if they don't really.  
    • "Clean-catch"
      A parent tries to catch some urine when the baby does a wee.  It is very hard to know when a baby is going to wee, and it can be hard to catch the wee. Germs from the skin can still get into the urine. 
    •  Catheter
      A tube is put into the bladder through the urethra (the hole where the urine comes out). This is a better test, but sometimes germs from the skin may still get into the tube when it is being put in. Babies may cry when they are being held still for the test. 
    • Supra-pubic aspirate(SPA)
      SPA is the "cleanest", and the best test for working out if your child has a urine infection but because it involves using a needle, it can hurt. A doctor puts a needle through the skin of the lower stomach. The needle goes into the bladder and the doctor can get urine out. Germs from the skin can't get into the urine. The doctor may not be able to get urine if the bladder is not very full. See fact sheet: Suprapubic aspirate.

    Older children who can wee when asked can collect a midstream urine (MSU) specimen. This is done by collecting part of the urine flow as your child passes urine into the toilet. The urine should be collected half way through their wee (midstream).

    Key points to remember

    • Urine infections can be serious in babies and children.
    • A urine test is the only way to know for sure if your child has a urine infection.
    • If your child has a urine infection they may need other tests and treatment.

    More information



    Developed by the RCH departments of General Medicine and Emergency Medicine.  First published: Aug 2003.  Last review: October 2010

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