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Your child’s pee: An ultimate guide – CHOC

Advice for parents about their child’s urine colors, hydration and health

Although it may sound silly, here at CHOC, we encourage you to take a periodic peek inside the toilet bowl! The color, odor and nature of your child’s urine (pee) can tell you a lot about their hydration — and overall health.

Here, Dr. Monica Molina, a pediatrician in CHOC’s Primary Care Network, provides an ultimate guide to your child’s urine. Get answers about the common urine hues and smells, how much water your child should be drinking and when to seek help if your child complains of pain while peeing.

What can my child’s pee color tell me about their health?

Typically, the color of your child’s urine depends on how hydrated they are, says Dr. Molina. Babies, kids and teens will have urine colors ranging from clear to amber color.

By keeping the occasional pulse on your child’s urine color, you may be able to monitor their water intake, spot signs of potential infection and seek help from your doctor when needed.

CHOC’s Pee Palette: How to decode your child’s urine colors

CHOC Pee Palette graphic - What does the color of my urine mean?
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Common urine colors for babies, kids and teens

  • Clear. When urine appears clear, it’s most often a result of drinking a lot of water. Babies will often have similar urine colors to kids and teens, but it’s common for their urine to be pale or colorless for the first few days after birth. Then, as babies start to feed, their urine will become more concentrated and turn pale yellow.
  • Pale Yellow. This is the ideal color for urine. It indicates that the body is well-hydrated and functioning properly. You can tell your kids that this color means they are drinking enough water.
  • Dark Yellow: If urine is darker than pale yellow, it might mean that your kids need to drink more water. It could indicate mild dehydration. With increased hydration, your child’s urine color should become paler after a few hours.
  • Amber or honey: If urine appears amber or honey-colored, it’s a sign of dehydration. Encourage your child to drink water immediately.
  • Orange: Orange urine can be caused by certain medications or foods, but it can also indicate dehydration or liver problems. Encourage your child to drink water and monitor their urine color.

Less common urine colors in babies, kids and teens  

  • Pink or red: Although foods and drinks may cause urine to appear red or pink, it could also be a sign of blood in the urine, which could indicate a health issue. If your child’s urine is pink or red, they should see a doctor right away.
  • Blue or green: Sometimes, certain foods or medications can cause urine to appear blue or green. While this is usually harmless, it’s a good idea to mention it to a doctor if it persists.
  • Cloudy or foamy: Cloudy or foamy urine might indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI). If your child’s urine appears consistently cloudy or foamy, they should see a doctor.

Share this pee palette with your kids and encourage them to peek at the toilet bowl every so often (since they probably already do anyway!) so they are more aware of their bodies and health. Always reassure them that it’s normal to talk about bodily functions and that it’s important to let an adult know if something seems unusual or uncomfortable.

For more toilet bowl tips, visit CHOC’s ultimate guide to your child’s poop.

Why does my child’s pee smell?

Urine does have a slightly “nutty” or “ammonia-like” odor, which is entirely normal. It’s usually mild, but sometimes, other factors may change the smell of urine, like:

  • Diet. Foods like asparagus, certain spices and coffee can cause urine to have a stronger odor. Dehydration can also concentrate the waste products in urine, making the odor more noticeable.
  • Medications. Some medications, like antibiotics, may change the smell of your child’s urine temporarily.
  • Health conditions. Certain conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs), diabetes, liver or kidney problems and metabolic disorders can cause changes in the smell of urine. For example, UTIs often produce a stronger, foul odor.

In most cases, a slight odor in your child’s urine is not cause for concern and should be resolved on its own. However, if your child’s urine has a strong, foul smell that lasts multiple days and is accompanied by other symptoms like pain, fever or changes in urine color, call your doctor.

My child is complaining that it hurts when they pee. What should I do?

Pain while peeing can be caused by different things. Most commonly, it’s caused by UTIs.

Irritation or injury of the genital area or kidney stones (small masses of minerals) in the urinary tract may also cause pain while peeing.

Encourage your child to drink water and keep an eye out for other symptoms of infection like fever, abdominal pain or changes in urine color or odor.

If your child experiences these symptoms, or the pain persists, call your doctor. 

How much water should my child be drinking?

At CHOC, we recommend that kids drink the amounts of water below according to their age, says Dr. Molina. It is important to note that children should drink the number of 8-ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a minimum of 64 ounces of water for children over the age of 8.

Get more hydration tips for kids from CHOC experts

Keeping track of the nature of your child’s pee can be a helpful way to make sure they are staying hydrated and feeling well. So don’t be afraid to investigate the toilet bowl and encourage your kids to report anything unusual to you. Your child’s pee can provide helpful clues to dehydration and infection prevention!

For more health and wellness resources from the pediatric experts at CHOC, sign up for the Kids Health newsletter.

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