Bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is very common amongst young children, especially those aged 6 and under. It often takes much longer for a child to stay dry at night than it does for them to stay dry during the day and many children wet the bed up to the age of eight. Bedwetting is a subconscious action; every child is different and it can happen infrequently, for example once every couple of weeks or more regularly, or even three or four times a week.

What causes bedwetting?

Bedwetting in children is common because the relationship between urine production during the night and bladder function isn’t fully developed; as the child gets older their brain will have better control of the nervous system and bladder function and this will prevent the child from wetting the bed. In most cases, bedwetting is part and parcel of the growing up phase. However, in some cases, it may be brought on by stress, anxiety, urinary tract infections and constipation.

Should I consult a doctor about my child?

Bedwetting is very common and very normal; however, if your child is aged over eight and is still frequently wetting the bed or you have a younger child and you notice changes in their bowel habits you should consider seeing your doctor as it may be indicative of a more serious illness. Most children grow out of bedwetting by the age of 6 but if you are worried about your child, you can seek medical advice. Bedwetting also runs in families.

Tips for parents

Don’t ever tell your child off for wetting the bed because its not a conscious action and they have no control over it. Instead, reassure them that its normal and that they have not been naughty because they’ve wet the bed. Try to encourage your child to go to the toilet before they go to bed and avoid giving them a drink immediately before bedtime. Cover the mattress with a plastic cover to protect the sheets and encourage your child when they stay dry for a whole night.

Treatments for bedwetting

Most children do not require treatment for bedwetting because they grow out of it fairly quickly. If you notice changes in your child’s bowel habits or notice they are experiencing pain when passing urine, take them to see your GP as this may indicate that they have an infection. If your child doesn’t grow out of bedwetting there are treatments available to help them; these include medications such as antidepressants (these are not used to treat symptoms of depression but because they have positive effects on enuresis) and anti-diuretic treatments which help to make the urine more concentrated. The vast majority of children grow out of bedwetting but a very small proportion suffer with the condition throughout their teenage and adult years; you should see your GP if this is the case.

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