Dr. Dean

Why Does My Child's Urine Smell Like Ammonia?

Posting Date: 09/15/2000

Original broadcast date: June 22, 2000

Cindy: My five-year-old daughter is totally healthy, but her urine smells like ammonia. Does this mean anything?

Dr. Dean: An ammonia smell occurs naturally in urine under certain circumstances. It can also signify a bladder infection, but your daughter would most likely exhibit other symptoms if she had a bladder infection.

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Ammonia results when nitrogen is broken down by the kidneys. Nitrogen is in protein, and is processed by the kidneys as a waste product. Urine that's held too long in the bladder will smell like ammonia.

So the smell may be the result of your little girl eating a lot of protein, or that she is holding her urine longer than she should.

Using the nose to sniff out disease is becoming a lost art among doctors. We have an article on about the odors that can be tip-offs to disease. A rotten egg smell is associated with liver disease. Tuberculosis can smell like beer, and diabetes makes a fruity odor.