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Bedwetting

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Bedwetting in children is common and you can learn more about bedwetting and how to manage or resolve the problem. ERIC is the only organisation in the UK that deals with all childhood continence …

Bedwetting in children is common and you can learn more about bedwetting and how to manage or resolve the problem. ERIC is the only organisation in the UK that deals with all childhood continence problems including bedwetting.

Published in: Health & Medicine

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  • 1. BedwettingIt is often extremely upsetting for children who wet the bed, and many people,both professionals and family members do not always appreciate the impact itcan have on children’s lives, on their confidence, and ability to take part insleepovers and school trips like their friends. It can also be very stressful fortheir parents, both to cope with the extra washing and also to support theirchild.Bedwetting is more common than most people realise. It affects up to half amillion children and teenagers in the UK every night but, because no one talksabout it, most people think they’re alone.Studies have shown that 1 in 6 five year olds, 1 in 7 seven year olds, 1 in 11nine year olds and 1 in 50 teenagers are affected by bedwetting and theproblem is more common in boys than girls, especially in the younger agegroups.Why do children wet the bed?It is not unusual for children under the age of five to still be wet at night, or tohave occasional wetting accidents in the day. We don’t fully understand why
  • 2. some children take longer than others to master the art of staying dry, but weknow it is not linked to poor toilet training or laziness on the child’s part. It doestend to go in families, and there is a hereditary factor.There are three other main reasons why bedwetting occurs. None of these arewithin the child’s conscious control, and bedwetting occurs during sleep sothey are not aware it is happening and they do not wet on purpose.A lack of the right levels of the natural hormone vasopressin which causes thekidneys to concentrate urine production at night has been shown to causebedwetting. This means that rather than a reduced amount of urine beingproduced overnight, the kidneys produce daytime amounts of urine and thebladder cannot hold it.Indications that night time vasopressin is lacking include large, wet patches ofurine in the night and wetting soon after sleep, in the early part of the night.Medication to replace the inadequate hormone can be prescribed, and this isusually very helpful and has few complications. It can enable children to takepart in sleepovers and other activities.Another reason is an overactive bladder. The muscles of an overactivebladder contract before the bladder is full and this signals that it needs toempty urgently. Signs of an overactive bladder will sometimes be apparentduring the day with the child needing to go to the toilet often and very urgentlyand they may have damp pants during the day. At night the child will oftenhave small wet patches in the bed and wake up after wetting. Medication canbe prescribed to relax the strong signals from the bladder.And the third and final reason why bedwetting occurs is that the child doesn’treceive the signal sent from the bladder to the brain which tells them to wake
  • 3. up to empty the bladder. Bedwetting alarms can be useful for this and theyhave a good success rate but need the child to be motivated and want to useone, and have good support from their carers. Alarms help a child to learn tohold their wee at night, and so can help with a permanent cure as the childlearns the skill.Other factors, such as constipation and urinary tract infections are known toaffect the bladder and should always be checked by your GP or healthprofessional;, especially if the child wets during the day beyond the age of five,or has discomfort when they wee.For the one in seven children who wet the bed beyond the age of seven, a fullassessment of the problem will help identify any possible physical factors andthe school nurse or GP should be able to direct you to a specialist continenceclinic or service.How to manage bedwettingThe best time to consider interventions for bedwetting is when the child isready and expressing a desire to become dry. A full assessment at abedwetting clinic will determine which intervention is best for each child andtheir family; not all areas have easily accessible clinics and there may be awaiting list. It is important to be able to offer regular support andencouragement for most children, and if possible a choice of type of alarm ormedication to try. With treatment, most children can become dry at night. Ifthere is no bedwetting service in your local area you may wish to contact yourGP to discuss medication or purchase a bedwetting alarm (a good range ofalarms are available to purchase from ERIC www.ericshop.org.uk).
  • 4. It’s important to ensure a child drinks regularly through the day (6-8 glasses ofwater based fluid); this helps ensure the bladder fills to its full capacity andover time can help the bladder hold more urine before it needs emptying atnight.ERIC’s top tipsThere are many things parents can do to help children manage or overcomebedwetting.  Try to stay patient and calm so your child does not become anxious. A positive approach will help to reassure your child that they will succeed.  Make sure that your child drinks 6-8 water-based drinks throughout the whole day. Cutting back on drinks does not help.  Experiment to see if any drinks, such as fizzy or flavoured drinks, tea, coffee and chocolate drinks increase the problem and avoid these accordingly.  Ensure your child does not put off going to the toilet in the day and encourage a visit to the toilet last thing before settling down to sleep.  Leave a soft light on to guide the way to the toilet at night and clear any obstacles from the route.  Use bedding protection such as bed mats and duvet protectors (available from ERIC). Absorbent pants are also useful for under-fives and for holidays, but these are best dispensed with once your child is ready to tackle the bedwetting.Plan ahead if you will be staying away from home. ERIC’s ‘Nights Away – NoWorries’ leaflet contains information to help manage bedwetting when staying
  • 5. away from home and is available online. There are also products that can helpsuch as sleeping bag liners available from ERIC.ResourcesERIC is the only national children’s charity dedicated to supporting children,young people and their families. ERIC offers practical ideas, information andresources to help manage or overcome the difficulties associated withbedwetting. For more information visit www.eric.org.uk

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