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Urine Culture



  • A urine culture tests your child’s urine to check for infections caused by bacteria.
  • Your child will be asked to urinate into a sterile cup. For an infant or young child, a thin flexible tube may be passed into the urethra and up into the bladder to collect a sample of urine. The sample will then be sent to the lab.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about what the test results mean and ask any questions you have.


What is a urine culture?

A urine culture is a test to see if there are bacteria in your child’s urine.

Why is this test done?

A urine culture is done to diagnose an infection in the urinary tract. It may be done if the results of a urine test are not normal. The urinary tract includes the:

  • Kidneys, which make urine
  • Ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Bladder, which stores urine
  • Urethra, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body

The test will tell your child’s healthcare provider:

  • If your child has an infection
  • What kind of bacteria are causing the infection
  • Which antibiotic medicine will best treat the infection

Sometimes the test is done after treatment to make sure an infection is gone.

How do I prepare my child for this test?

Your child may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your child’s healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that your child is taking. Ask your provider before stopping any of your child’s regular medicines.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.

How is the test done?

There are 2 main methods for collecting a urine specimen:

  • For the clean-catch method, you clean your child’s genital area with special wipes provided. When your child starts urinating, you then catch some of the urine in a sterile cup. The cup should not touch your child’s skin.
  • The catheterization method may be used if a sample is needed from an infant or young child. Your healthcare provider cleans the genital area and then passes a thin flexible tube into the urethra and up into the bladder to collect a sample of urine.

A method that is used less often in young babies is called suprapubic aspiration. A small needle is placed into the bladder though the skin on the lower belly.

The urine is sent to the lab and tested. If your child has an infection, it may take a few days to find out what kind of germ is causing it.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider how and when you will get your child’s test results.

What does the test result mean?

A negative test result is a normal result, which means no bacteria grew in the culture and your child probably does not have an infection.

Usually a positive test result means your child has a urinary tract infection. However, the result could be a false positive when your child doesn't have an infection if too many bacteria from the skin got into the sample.

What if my child’s test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about the result and ask questions such as:

  • If your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes your child might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2021-08-23
Last reviewed: 2020-01-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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