Strong Urine Smell In Babies: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


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Urine is usually clear or pale yellow with a mild smell. There could be moments when your baby’s urine may have a strong odor. Passing strong-smelling urine occasionally may not be a problem if your baby is well-hydrated and the urine has a pale color. However, persistent foul-smelling urine may require pediatric evaluation.

Read this post to know about the causes, associated signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention of smelly urine in babies.

Risk Factors And Causes Of Smelly Urine

The smell of a baby’s urine may change due to various factors ranging from diet to illnesses. Babies may have smelly urine due to the following reasons (1).

  • Not getting enough milk and dehydration may cause dark and strong-smelling urine due to increased concentration of urine.
  • Urinary tract infections may cause foul-smelling urine in babies. You may also look for other UTI symptoms, such as fever, since all babies with foul-smelling urine may not have UTI.
  • Maternal diet may influence the smell of urine in breastfed babies. Although scientific evidence is lacking, certain foods, such as onion, asparagus, and garlic, in a mother’s diet may cause an unusual smell in the baby’s urine.
  • Maternal medications, such as antibiotics, may also cause a strong urine odor in breastfed babies.
  • Diabetes (increased blood glucose) or maple syrup urine disease may cause a sweet urine odor.
  • Liver failure may also cause smelly urine in babies. This is usually associated with jaundice (yellow skin).

Sometimes urine may smell different as babies grow older. Not changing nappies for a long time may also cause smelly urine. Some babies could have foul-smelling urine without any other issues. You may consult a pediatrician if you are concerned.

Symptoms And Signs That May Occur With Smelly Urine

You may notice the following signs and symptoms of possible underlying conditions in babies with persistent smelly urine (2).

  • Foamy or cloudy urine
  • Dark urine such as bloody, tea-colored, or pink-tinged
  • Dribbling of urine
  • Oliguria or no urine
  • Fever
  • Edema
  • Symptoms of dehydration, such as sunken eyes and dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Lethargy

These signs may arise due to conditions that are also the reason behind smelly urine. Seek pediatric care if your baby has any of the above-listed symptoms with a strong urine smell.

Treatment For Smelly Urine

Occasional cases of smelly urine may not require any treatment. Babies with persistent strong- or foul-smelling urine should be evaluated and treated. The treatment options may vary depending on the underlying cause.

  • Rehydration therapy with intravenous (IV) or oral fluids for dehydration
  • Frequent bottle or breastfeeding suggested for maintaining hydration
  • Antibiotics for persistent and recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Removal of bladder stones
  • Control of diabetes and other metabolic disorders
  • Maternal diet modifications
  • Changing maternal or infant’s medications that may cause abnormal color and smell of urine

Prevention Of Smelly Urine In Babies

Meeting the baby’s fluid requirements through feeding and fluids can dilute urine and reduce the intensity of its smell. Babies will have at least five wet diapers per day with pale or straw yellow urine if they are hydrated well. Diapers should be changed on time to prevent them from stinking. Treating and controlling underlying conditions also help to prevent foul urine odor.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why does a baby’s urine smell like ammonia?

Urine is composed of waste products, such as urea, dissolved in water. Urea may disintegrate into ammonia in some conditions. When it is diluted, you may not feel the smell. However, concentrated urine may have a strong odor of ammonia. The following conditions may cause ammonia odor in the urine.

  • Bladder stones
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

An occasional ammonia smell in a baby’s urine is normal. However, if it persists, pediatricians may order tests to look for kidney or bladder issues.

2. Is smelly urine a sign of teething?

There is no direct link between teething and urine odor. You may look for signs and symptoms of other conditions that may cause strong-smelling urine in babies.

3. Why does a baby’s urine smell like poop?

If your baby’s urine smells like poop, first check for soiled diapers. Feces-smelling urine without signs of bowel movement can be due to a urinary fistula, an abnormal opening connecting the bladder to the intestines. It may cause leakage of feces into the urine, resulting in the poop smell of urine (3). Consult a doctor since it may increase the risk of urinary tract infections and require surgical correction.

Urine smell may vary based on its concentration and underlying conditions. This can be temporary in most cases and does not indicate any severe illnesses. You may also look for other signs and symptoms to determine the possible cause of strong urine odor. If you are unsure or concerned about the urine’s smell, speak to a pediatrician.


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