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Bladder or Urinary Catheterization

Why does my child need a urinary catheter?

Urinary catheterization drains urine from the bladder. This keeps urine from sitting in the bladder. If urine sits in the bladder for too long, it can cause a bladder or kidney infection.

What is a urinary catheter?

A urinary catheter is a flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through where you pee. This tube allows urine to be collected and measured and helps keep the bladder empty. Catheters can be put in to just empty the bladder one time (in and out to just drain the bladder). Or they can be put in to stay for a few days. Urinary catheters come in many sizes. Your health care team will decide the proper size.

Straight catheter

This is an example of a straight catheter, also known as an in and out catheter.

How often to use a catheter

  • Follow the schedule from your child’s care team. Do not go longer than 8 hours.
  • On a normal schedule:
    • When your child wakes up
    • At lunch time
    • At dinner or supper time
    • Before bed
  • When the bladder appears distended or feels full.
  • If your child is having leaking or wetting
Foley catheter

This is an example of foley catheters, which can remain in the bladder for some time.

Catheterization supplies you will need

Gather supplies onto a clean work area.

  • K-Y® Jelly (surgical lubricant) or lidocaine gel. Do not use petroleum jelly.
  • Urinal
  • Catheter (your care team will let you know the correct type and size)
  • Povidone-iodine swabs
  • Sterile gloves
  • Trash can

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Dry well. If there is no soap and water available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer and allow hands to air dry.

Catheterization steps for males

  • Open sterile gloves without touching the inside of the outer package. Keep the outer package open and flat so you can use it as a sterile surface for other supplies.
  • Remove inner glove package and set to the side.
  • Open all supplies and place them on one side of the outer glove package so you can grab them as needed.
  • Squirt lubricant onto the middle of the other side of the outer glove package that was untouched.
  • Put on sterile gloves.
  • With non-dominant hand hold penis at 90-degree angle. This hand is no longer a sterile hand. It is now your "dirty" hand.
  • With your sterile hand, grab a povidone-iodine swab and clean in a circle pattern down from tip of penis 3 times. Throw out each swab after each cleaning.
  • With your sterile hand, grab the catheter.
  • Dip the first 1–2 inches of the catheter into the lubricant to coat it.
  • Grab the catheter like a pencil and slowly insert 7–10 inches into the penis until urine begins to flow. Then, gently push the catheter in an inch farther.
  • Allow the urine to drain into a urinal. It may take several minutes to fully empty the bladder.
  • When the urine stops, slowly remove the catheter.
  • Throw it away in the trash can.
  • Pour the urine into a toilet.
  • Clean the penis with soap and water. Dry.
  • Remove your gloves and wash your hands with soap and water. If no soap and water is available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Catheterization steps for females

  • Help your child into the "frog position": on back, knees bent, legs open, and resting in comfortable position.
  • It may be helpful to have an incontinence pad or towel under your child's buttocks.
  • Open sterile gloves without touching the inside of the outer package. Keep the outer package open and flat so you can use it as a sterile surface for other supplies.
  • Remove inner glove package and set to the side.
  • Open all supplies and place them on one side of the outer glove package so you can grab them as needed.
  • Squirt lubricant onto the middle of the other side of the outer glove package that was untouched.
  • Put on sterile gloves.
  • With non-dominant hand, separate the labia. This hand is no longer a sterile hand. It is now your "dirty" hand.
  • Clean the area where the catheter will be placed:
    • With your clean hand grab a povidone-iodine swab and clean from front to back with one downward stroke along one side of the urinary opening. Discard swab.
    • Using a second povidone-iodine swab, clean front to back with one downward stroke the opposite side of the urinary opening. Discard swab.
    • With a third swab, clean from front to back with one downward stroke straight down over the urinary opening. Discard swab.
    • Continue to keep labia folds separated with your fingers of your dirty hand.
  • With your sterile hand, grab the catheter.
  • Dip the first 1–2 inches of the catheter into the lubricant to coat it.
  • Grab the catheter like a pencil and slowly insert into the urinary opening between the clitoris and vaginal opening. Push the catheter in about 3–5 inches until urine flows freely.
  • Allow the urine to flow into the urinal. This may take several minutes.
  • When the urine stops, slowly remove the catheter.
  • Throw it away in the trash can.
  • Pour the urine into a toilet.
  • Clean vaginal area with soap and water. Dry.
  • Remove your gloves and wash your hands with soap and water. If no soap and water is available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Key Points

  • Urinary catheterization is sometimes needed to empty the bladder and prevent infection.
  • Your care team will help you decide how often you should use a catheter for your child.
  • Follow instructions from your care team exactly.


Reviewed: August 2022