Kitchen Garden

Everything You Need To Know About Bed-wetting

Here’s why bed-wetting happens and what you can do to help stop it.

Bed-wetting is a common childhood problem. From a medical point of view there is no absolute age at which a child should be dry at night, but most parents are concerned if their child is still wetting the bed after the age of six.

Perth-based GP Dr Joe Kosterich says while most children are dry at night by that age, about 10 per cent of children still wet their bed at the age of 10. A small number of adults also have the problem.

Why do children wet the bed?

There is usually no medical cause for bed-wetting. It can take some time for the message of a full bladder to make its way to a child’s conscious state, causing them to wake to go to the toilet. In children who wet the bed, their bladder muscles simply relax, releasing urine.

The child is not aware it is happening.

The problem is more common in boys and more likely in families with a history of bed-wetting. Constipation can be a contributing factor, as can being a deep sleeper.

If your child has never been dry at night this is known as primary enuresis. If your child was dry then started wetting the bed again, this is called secondary enuresis. Secondary enuresis can be linked to stress such as emotional upheaval or medical conditions such as urinary infections.

If your child reverts to bed-wetting after being dry, examine the possible trigger. Have a chat with your child to see whether something is bothering them. A trip to your GP may also help.

What to do if your child wets the bed

Ensure you have spare linen and mattress protectors. Encourage your child by keeping a sticker chart and awarding a sticker for every night they remain dry.

Be patient with your child. Though the whole process can be frustrating, try to remember they aren’t doing it on purpose, and probably want the whole situation to end as much as you do.

These simple measures can also help your child to stay dry:

  • Let them drink as much fluid as they like during the day, but avoid giving them drinks before bed.
  • Get into a nightly routine of taking your child to the toilet just before bed. After doing so, Kosterich recommends waiting a few minutes then taking your child back to the toilet again for one more try. This may help empty their bladder completely.
  • Enlist your child’s help in changing their bed.

Pad and bell alarm

If you’re getting nowhere, you could try a pad and bell alarm, which can be hired from pharmacies. The pad is placed on your child’s mattress and if it becomes wet the alarm next to the bed rings. The aim is to wake your child, teaching them the feeling of wetting the bed and encouraging the connection between bladder fullness and waking.

“When the alarm is no longer needed it’s because the brain associates the message of the full bladder, not the noise,” says Kosterich.

“It can take up to six weeks to be effective.”

He advises against using waterproof sheets while trying the pad and bell alarm, as it makes the system less effective.

If the alarm system fails, take a three-month break then try again.

Medications

Medications such as nasal sprays can help, but discuss this option with your GP first. Kosterich says most children don’t require medication.

Time

Most important, says Kosterich, is to remember that becoming dry is simply a developmental stage. “Kids just get dry,” he says. “Just as one day they start walking, one day they start talking, and one day they’re dry.”

Special circumstances

While bed-wetting can be more of an issue when children are at sleepovers or camps, there is no sure-fire way to avoid accidents at these times. Kosterich advises against using medications, but instead suggests discreetly advising the family with whom the child will be staying, or the supervisors at the camp of the situation beforehand and giving your child waterproof sheets to use.


Words by Evelyn Lewin

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