A routine urine culture detects the amount of germs
(microorganisms like bacteria) present in the urine.
Once a urine sample is collected, a technician will keep it in conditions where
microorganisms can multiply. Normally, no more than a small number of germs will be
in the urine if there's no infection. If a larger number of germs are present, the
technician will use a microscope or chemical tests to determine the specific types
growing in the culture. The technician also may run tests to determine which medications
will be most effective against the microorganism if the doctor diagnoses an infection.
Why It's Done
A urine culture is used to diagnose a urinary
tract infection (UTI) and see what kinds of germs are causing it. The doctor may
order a urine culture if your child:
complains of a painful sensation when peeing
feels the urge to pee frequently but doesn't produce much urine (also called urgency)
has a fever of without a clear reason or has abdominal pain
has a routine urinalysis that is abnormal, especially if it shows a high number
of white blood cells
has completed a course of treatment for a UTI, to see if the infection is gone
No preparation other than cleansing the area around the urinary opening is required
for the urine culture. Tell your doctor if your child is taking antibiotics or has
taken them recently.
Collecting the sample should only take a few minutes. Your child will be asked
to pee into a sterile sample cup in the doctor's office. If your child isn't potty
trained and can't pee into a cup, a catheter (a narrow soft tube) may need to be inserted
into the bladder to obtain the urine specimen.
The skin surrounding the urinary opening has to be cleaned just before the urine
is collected. In this "clean-catch" method, you or your child cleans the skin around
the urinary opening with a special towelette. Your child then urinates into the toilet,
stops momentarily, and then urinates again into the collection container. Catching
the pee in "midstream" is the goal. The container shouldn't touch your child's skin.
Be sure to wash your hands and your child's hands before and after this process.
Sometimes it's preferable to collect a sample first thing in the morning after
your child wakes up. If this is the case, you may be asked to help your child with
the test at home. You'll take the sample to the lab, where a technician will test
it for the presence of germs. Follow any storage and transportation instructions the
lab gives you.
What to Expect
Because the test involves normal urination, there shouldn't be any discomfort as
long as your child can provide a urine sample. (There may be temporary discomfort
if a catheter was inserted to collect the urine.) It's important to keep the area
around the urinary opening clean before the test and to catch the urine sample midstream.
Getting the Results
The results of the urine culture will be available in 1-3 days. Your doctor will
go over the results with you and explain what they mean.
No risks are involved when providing a sample for a urine culture. If a catheterized
specimen is required, it may cause temporary discomfort. You can discuss any questions
you have about this procedure with your healthcare provider.
Helping Your Child
Urinating to provide the specimen for the test is usually painless. Ease your child’s
fears by explaining how the test will be conducted and why it's being done. Make sure
your child understands that the urinary opening must be clean and the pee must be
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about the urine culture, speak with your doctor.