There are several forms of illness called glomerulonephritis. One of the forms of this disease, which specifically attacks children, is commonly referred to as a nephritis. Nephritis develops in a child who has had a streptococcal (bacterial) infection two to three weeks before that.
The body creates chemical substances (antibodies) that successfully attack the bacteria. But due to some defects in the immune system, antibodies are beginning to attack the kidneys. Kidneys are inflamed, can not produce normal amounts of urine and allow entering of blood in the urine.
Symptoms occur within a few days. The main symptom is the reduced amount of urine that is blurred or reddish-brown due to blood. Another major symptom is the accumulation of fluid in the body due to reduced amount of urine. The fluid appears as a swelling (edema) around the eyes and on the face or all over the body. Some children also have elevated temperature and headaches.
Nephritis is rare and occurs as a complication only in a small number of streptococcal infections. In the average year, one in 3000 school children are treated from nephritis.
Dangers related to nephritis are small. Sometimes the baby’s blood pressure increases considerably due to fluid build-up in the body. This is why severe headaches, vomiting, and sometimes cramps occur. If this happens, contact your doctor immediately.
A child with recurrent urinary tract infections (including nephritis) is exposed to long-term kidney damage. The consequence of such long-term discomfort is chronic renal insufficiency (renal failure).
What to do?
Nephritis requires medical attention. You should always tell the doctor about the abnormal appearance of the baby’s urine. If, after a physical examination, the doctor suspects your child has nephritis, blood and urine tests will be performed. Laboratory analysis of the urine sample will confirm the diagnosis, while the blood test will show which antibodies have caused nephritis.
The doctor usually advises resting, or lying down if the infection is severe. In addition, the child will undergo a restrictive diet, i.e. the amount of salt, liquid and protein (meat, fish, eggs) will be reduced. The diet lasts as long as the amount of urine does not rise to normal and is designed to reduce kidney load and prevent accumulation of fluid in the body. Antibiotics destroy the remaining bacteria, and diuretics increase the amount of water that is excreted by the urine. A child will be received in hospital if it is considered to be at risk for the occurrence of complications that can be immediately prevented. If blood pressure rises to a dangerous point, a child will receive medicines to reduce the pressure (see high blood pressure). But, despite the complications, prospects for complete recovery withing a week are very good.