Bubble Bath, Boy = UTI?



For the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing bubble baths at every bath which Jasper really loves.

Fast forward to a few days ago when Jasper tells me “Mommy, I peed in my underwear.”

Not a full pee mind you, just like he “leaked” a little…leaving a circular wet spot in his underwear, not normally even spreading to his actual pants. The first time it happened I figured he just held it in too long.  Then it happened again the next day, and again the following day. Maybe 3-4 times in a 3 day time period.

This is super unusual for him. He was a bit late to the potty training game, but once he got it he REALLY got it, he’s only had maybe 3 accidents ever and always in the middle of the night.

Last night before bed he told me he had to pee.  Which is normal except that he had peed maybe 10 minutes before downstairs before we went up to bed. Then he got back in bed and immediately said he had to be AGAIN but when we went to the toilet only a drop came out.

At this point I was beginning to suspect a UTI, even though from what I know they are very rare in little boys. At least MUCH rarer than in little girls. Plus, he wasn’t complaining of any pain during urination, but he has said his tummy hurts  a couple of times over the last few days. Also, he’s a pretty tough kid in terms of pain, I think his threshold is high (even the worst boo boos usually only elicit a minute of crying tops.)

My googling on the subject turned out all sorts of conflicting information about UTIs and boys (particularly if there is or is not an increased risk in uncircumsized boys over the age of 1) but one thing that caught my eye was the mention of bubble baths.


I’ve always known that bubble baths and GIRLS are bad news for UTIs, but I completely failed to make the connection that it might also increase the risk in boys. There’s not too much info out there about it in connection with boys, but I can’t help but feel like the timing of us starting the bubble baths can’t just be coincidence.

We have a pediatrician appointment today where we have to try to get him to pee in a cup. Yeah, that should be interesting on many levels!

Wish us luck, and please share any experiences you’ve had with UTIs, particularly with boys as the information seems scarce!

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Jennifer says:

Its important to not give up bubble baths permanently, but every single night is really not a good idea. Cut the bubble baths down to 2 times a week so you guys can still enjoy the time!

Karen says:

whoa…. I had no idea bubble baths and UTIs were connected. I stopped giving out 2 year old daughter bubble baths because she started to get these really itchy dry patches on her skin. Now I’m really glad I stopped with the bubbles. Thanks for the info :)

MJ says:


I have been thinking about you SO much. I ran across this article last month, filed it away in my memory bank (yea, that worked…) and then read your post and searched the internet frantically for it. Ugh. I FINALLY ran across it this morning: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/03/bed_wetting_the_simple_cause_your_doctor_probably_missed_.html — I do not send you this to scare you, but simply because it was worth a read based on your post here. Hugs!


ariana says:

WOW MJ, thank you!! That makes SO much sense. I wish I had my pediatrician’s email address b/c I would totally forward it to him.

He’s been OK the last few days, but I am definitely glad to have this info in case he has a relapse!

jbhat says:

I hope he is better and that the issue goes away. But mostly I am DYING OVER HOW GORGEOUS YOUR BATHROOM IS!!!! It’s very distracting to see those pictures whilst trying to pay attention to a medical issue. How do you ever leave the house in the morning, is what I want to know. I’d be standing in there dreamily all morning, and would become chronically late to work. : )


ariana says:

Thanks JB, to be honest, we usually ARE late for work, but I don’t think I can blame it on the bathroom :)

Judy N says:

So, I am a pediatrician, but more importantly, I’m a mom of a son who had potential UTi problems (everything ended up fine) and a daughter who DOES have UTI problems (she has urinary reflux that puts her at risk of UTI’s). So, I’ve researched this A LOT…not just for practicing medicine purposes, but because I’m a mom.

Bubble baths do NOT cause UTI’s directly. The soap in the water can cause irritation of the urethral opening (the hole where the pee comes out), mostly in girls. Not really in boys. This irritation in girls can mimic UTI symptoms by causing pain with urination and a false sense of needing to pee. Sometimes, because it hurts, they’ll hold their pee longer than they need to or perhaps because the urethra is already damaged from the irritation, it’s easier to get a UTI because of that. But, in girls, the urethra is super short and so getting from outside to bladder is like a short inch. For boys, their anatomy makes it so that it is more like several inches from outside to bladder. This is why boys typically do NOT get UTI’s. There is a link to circumcision and UTI’s, but not strong enough to condone HAVING to circumcise all boys. If your boy has an anatomical issue that already puts him at risk of getting UTI’s, it will likely be recommended that he get circumcised to decrease his overall chance.

It would be odd for a 3 year old BOY to get a random UTI. Most boys who get UTI’s will almost always be babies who have some sort of anatomic abnormality that puts them at risk of UTI’s (some sort of anatomic obstruction or reflux of urine issues).

For GIRLS, they can frequently get UTI’s even WITHOUT any anatomic abnormalities…they’ll get them once they start wiping themselves because they don’t wipe thoroughly or they wipe from back to front. They’ll get them once they become sexually active. The female urethra is just too short…so it’s very very easy for bacteria to be pushed up into the bladder or for the bacteria to creep a tiny ways up into the bladder. Very unlikely that bacteria will crawl all the way up a boy’s long urethra!

Constipation is a super common cause of UTI symptoms…sometimes they can be backed up with pooped but their poops don’t necessarily have to be rock hard. Try and feed him some extra stool softening foods for a couple weeks and see if you can get him stooling daily at least and see if it helps!

heartatz says:

When I read this i thought UTI too. We have 2 boys and once had that problem with bubble baths. Glad it was not a UTI but then again perplexing that it was not a UTI.
Our younger son had a similar problem when he was Jasper’s age. We looked at everything. It was especially hard on him..with an older brother who tormented him calling him “pee-pee boy” We eventually noticed that he only wet his pants (a little bit like Jasper) when he drank Cola drinks. He normally only got them on special occasions or when we went out to dinner.
After that he was limited to 1 a day and none after 6 pm. It worked..no more pee-pee boy!
Oh yes, another time he has a rash around his private areas. I discovered while doing the laundry and finding no undies…that he had not changed underpants for a week. He loved his super hero jockies so much ..even after a bath he had taken off the clean ones to fish the old dirty loved ones out of the hamper and wear them instead!! YUK!
He has survived all of this, to be a fine young man who would be mortified that I am telling you these stories now!

Sarah says:

I have a son who had the same exact issue. He went regularly to do #2, but what happened was he wasnt “emptying” when he went and slowly it backed up and left him constipated. So, it wasnt the lack of going. Instead, it was the lack of finishing. Now he is on a timer for 5 minutes when he goes in for #2. That plus Sustanex is a winning combination at this house :)

ariana says:

Update: so he does NOT have a UTI. But, while at the doctors office waiting he started pulling down his pants and when I went to look at why he had pooped a little! WTF? So we go in the bathroom to do the urine sample which he did fine with BTW and then I tell him that I CANNOT put his poopy underwear back on that he will have to just wear his pants and he starts SCREAMING crying.. everyone that works there thought he was screaming because he didn’t want to pee in the cup LOL.

Anyway, the pediatrician thought it was a distraction issue.. like we need to remind him that he has to go pee more often.

But then we got home and he peed two times in a row, then went back and sat on the couch and peed in his pants RIGHT AFTER peeing!

Then I realized that he was making a “pushing” sound every so often. We put him in a pull up and I told him that he CANNOT push unless he’s sitting on the toilet. He did poop after that and it seemed a little like constipated poop (from what I saw, he flushed it before I could get a good look at it!) so I’m hoping that was the problem.

Really odd because he’s gone much longer between poops before and been quite constipated but this has never happened before. Maybe it’s some new connection he’s made between “pushing” and a certain feeling that is causing him to do that. I’m hoping the instruction to NOT PUSH unless he’s on the toilet will be enough to straighten this out, but we’ll see I guess!

Susan says:

My daughter’s half-brother was not circumcised (not my son~confusing, I’m sorry) and he used to have a lot of pain with urination when he was a toddler. Having a bubble bath actually helped clean the area around and under the foreskin. I wouldn’t rule out the constipation, even if he is relatively regular. There could be some extra stool accumulating that isn’t being expelled & it could be causing this issue.

Good luck with this issue and I hope Jasper is back to normal in no time!!

ariana says:

Sarah, very interesting!! Jasper has actually been pretty regular during that time period, so I’d be surprised if that was the cause. I guess I’ll know soon. Hope the little guy isn’t in any discomfort :(

Sarah says:

Our boys are almost the same age and we had a similar situation at our house recently (lots of accidents from a kid who rarely has them and very little pee when he did go). I too suspected a UTI but that was ruled out based on a urine test. What our pedi suspected was constipation that lead to the signals for urine getting mixed up. We added benefiber to his diet once a day and he was back to normal really quickly.

Kelsey says:

My good friend’s infant son (8 weeks) had a UTI that required overnight observation at the hospital and a round of antibiotics. They could really say why it happened, only that it does occur on rare occasion. Good luck!

Amy says:

It sure sounds like a bladder infection/UTI. Very easy to treat (let us know how he does peeing in a cup! lol).

I do bubble baths on occasion, not often and make sure to rinse them off really well after. Sometimes, I like to add a few drops of food coloring to bath water to make it more “fun”. My favorite (when there’s enough time) is to just put an inch of water then pour washable paints on my child and on the sides of the tub and just let them go at it! Finger painting with easy clean up, just rise/wash the tub and child at the same time! It’s also great for teaching body parts “Now let’s paint child’s knees/elbows/shoulders…”