Sleepovers, slumber parties and going away to camp are wonderful childhood memories. However, some children are reluctant to participate in these activities because of the fear that they may wet the bed. Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is a common childhood disorder. If your child wets the bed, reassure him or her that hundreds of children do, and most will outgrow it on their own.
There is no definite age of when children should outgrow bedwetting. What we do know is that most children will eventually gain bladder control while sleeping. Fifteen percent of all 5 year olds wet the bed and only about 0.5% of children who wet the bed will continue to do so as adults. One factor that can predict how soon a child will outgrow bedwetting is family history. If one parent wet the bed as a child, odds are nearly 50% that his or her child will do the same.
It is not completely understood why children wet the bed. It is known that bedwetting can be genetic and run in families. Bedwetting can be caused by a bladder capacity that is too small to hold the amount of urine that is produced while they sleep. Sound sleeping, constipation, urinary tract infections and stress can also increase the risk of bedwetting.
Bedwetting can be a source of embarrassment, anxiety and stress for both the child and family. Children do not wet the bed on purpose and should never be punished for it. Simple treatments that your child can try include:
- Drinking more in the early part of the day to decrease thirst at night
- Decreasing nighttime beverages and stopping fluids two hours prior to bedtime if possible
- Avoiding caffeine (including chocolate) and carbonated drinks
- Urinating before bedtime
If these techniques do not succeed, other therapies can be helpful. A bedwetting alarm is a very effective therapy. The alarm will sound and awaken your child when he begins to urinate. The alarm attaches to the shoulder of the pajamas and the sensor attaches to the outside of your child’s clothing to sense the first drop of wetness. You might need to help your child if he does not wake when the alarm sounds. It can take up to 12 weeks of using the alarm before your child stays dry at night. The alarm gives the best long-term cure by teaching the sleeping brain to be aware of the bladder, and has about a 68% success rate.
There are also medications available to help with bedwetting. Relapses are common after stopping medicines and even after successful training with the alarm, but the treatment can be restarted. The relapse rate after implementing the full spectrum of treatments (alarm, adjusting fluids and motivational therapy) is about 16% after one year.
In the meantime, if your child would like to attend a sleepover or camp, there are short-term solutions that can help your child. A physician or nurse practitioner can prescribe a medication called desmopressin (ddavp). You may need to have your child practice taking this medication prior to his or her sleepover to be sure that it is effective. Also many children wear disposable absorbent garments such as pull-ups to their sleepovers.
An appropriate time to consider seeing a urology specialist is when:
- Your child still wets the bed after age 6 or 7
- Your child expresses an interest to become dry, is voicing concern, sadness or frustration
- Your child starts to wet the bed after being dry for six months or longer
- Your child has not responded to prior treatments for bedwetting
- Your child has painful urination, daytime wetting or urinary tract infections along with bedwetting.
If you are interested in having your child see a specialist to help with bedwetting, you can make an appointment with the Healthy Bladder Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s at 513-636-4975.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Young & Healthy. To read the full publication, go here.