Bed wetting is very common, about 5% of children aged nine to ten still wet the bed. It is common in many families, but it can cause significant distress and anxiety for the whole household! It can also lead to avoidance of social activities such as sleepovers or school camps.
Bed wetting is not anybody’s fault, it is not caused by laziness or bad behaviour. It is caused by the inability to waken from sleep by a full bladder. The kidneys produce a large amount of urine at night and the bladder can become overactive and not store the urine. Children may not wake from a deeper sleep, which is why it may occur more commonly in the comfort of a familiar environment at home.
It is important to see a doctor if a child was dry, but suddenly starts bed wetting at night, if bed wetting is frequent at school age, if the bed wetting is distressing to children or if he or she wants to become dry. It is also important to see a doctor if there are any other symptoms (e.g. constipation). A doctor will look for any physical causes. If there are no causes, it might be best to wait if your child is under the age of seven and is not bothered by the bed wetting.
What is the best treatment for bed wetting? Night alarms can help by increasing awareness of the feeling of having a full bladder. Underpants are required instead of pull ups in order for the alarm to work. Alarms may be required for three to four months. Alarms can help over 80% of children become dry. Most children will stay dry and there is a lower relapse rate compared to medication. It is not a good idea to make children clean up after themselves as this can be seen as punishment for something that is out of your child’s control.
Medications can be effective in certain cases. They reduce the activity of the bladder or to reduce the amount of urine the kidneys produce. Medications alone to not cure bed wetting, but they may reduce the anxiety around sleepovers and school camps.
Restricting fluids at night is not an effective way to treat bed wetting. However, reducing caffeinated drinks before bedtime can help.