Kidney stones in children — considered all but a
medical aberration until recently — are now becoming
a fairly common condition. It's a growing and disturbing
trend that has pediatricians at the
Hopkins Children's Center, and around the country,
sounding the alarm.
While doctors have yet to quantify the precise
increase and tease out the factors behind it — better
detection devices probably play some role —
pediatricians agree that the main culprits are probably too
much salt and too little drinking water in children's
"More and more children with kidney stones are coming
to us," said kidney specialist Alicia Neu, co-director of
the kidney stone clinic at the Children's Center. "While
this is somewhat unexpected, it is not totally surprising
given that so many other conditions are on the rise in
children due to poor diet, such as high blood pressure,
type 2 diabetes and obesity, to name a few."
Kidney stones are rarely a serious condition but can
be extremely painful and can cause urinary tract
Limiting salt in the diet and drinking plenty of water
are the best ways to prevent the most common types of
kidney stones or slow their growth. Here are several simple
tips to keep in mind:
Doctors recommend consuming no
more than 2.4 grams of sodium a day, or 6 grams (1
teaspoon) of table salt a day.
Stay away from salty snacks, such
as chips and pretzels.
Be aware that processed foods,
including smoked and cured meats, sodas and canned products
have the highest sodium content.
Look for "no salt added" or "low
sodium" labels when buying food.
Rinse canned foods under water to
remove some of the sodium.
Tea, coffee, dark chocolate,
spinach, nuts and wheat bran can increase the risk of
certain types of kidney stones.
A child needs to drink 64 ounces
of water a day.
Sugar-laden juices and sodas don't
count as proper hydration.
Urologist Yegappan Lakshmanan, co-director of the
Children's Center's pediatric stone clinic, said, "Clearly,
when it comes to water consumption, what is needed is a
cultural change, and schools have to play a role in making
bottled water available and limiting soft drinks, as well
as allowing children to visit the restroom as needed."
A good way to tell if a child is drinking enough water
is his or her urge to urinate every three hours; if a child
urinates less frequently, it might be a sign of
dehydration, Lakshmanan said.
Signs and symptoms of kidney stones include intense
pain in the lower back and/or sides; frequent and painful
urination; blood in the urine and/or cloudy urine; and
urinary tract infections, secondary to kidney stones,
accompanied by fever.