Thousands of young children are at risk of permanent kidney damage from a condition known as reflux, which is often missed by GPs and goes untreated for long periods. In later life they may develop kidney failure and need dialysis, according to a report from The Kidney Foundation.
In children who suffer from reflux (vesico-ureteric reflux), urine flows back from the bladder and sometimes reaches the kidneys. This increases the chances of a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can spread to the kidneys and cause inflammation.
If antibiotic treatment is not given promptly, scars develop, distorting the tissue and resulting in failure in later life. However, because of ignorance about reflux, many children receive inappropriate treatment or none at all.
The report prepared by the foundation says that a urine sample should be taken from any child who has unexplained fever, vomiting or abdominal pain and that antibiotics should be given as protection until tests confirmed whether or not she or he has a UTI.
'If UTI is present, then the kidney must be protected by a low-dose antibacterial agent until further checks for reflux can be carried out,' the report said.
A spokesman for the foundation said that family doctors and parents had an important role to play in diagnosis and treatment: 'If their child is experiencing persistent unexplained high fevers and sickness, they should ask their family doctor for a urine sample to be taken and tested.'