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Bed-Wetting: Should I Do Something About My Child's Bed-Wetting?
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.
Bed-Wetting: Should I Do Something About My Child's Bed-Wetting?
Get the facts
- Treat the bed-wetting with home treatments or medicine.
- Wait for the bed-wetting to stop without treatment.
Key points to remember
- Most children stop wetting the bed on their own. Gaining bladder control is a normal part of development that takes longer in some children.
- If your child is younger than 5 or 6, medical treatment for bed-wetting probably isn't needed. Home treatment may help you manage the wetting until the child stops on his or her own.
- If your child is older than 5 or 6, the choice to begin treatment is based on how you and your child feel about it.
- If your child has begun wetting again after having been dry for at least 3 months, the wetting may be caused by a treatable medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection.
Bed-wetting is common in young children.1
- In 5-year-olds, 15 to 20 out of 100 children wet the bed.
- In 7-year-olds, 7 out of 100 children wet the bed.
- In 10-year-olds, 5 out of 100 children wet the bed.
- In 12- to 14-year-olds, 2 or 3 out of 100 children wet the bed.
Children grow and develop at different rates. Bed-wetting will usually stop over time without treatment. Bed-wetting is rarely caused by a medical problem.
Treatment for bed-wetting is usually not a cure. The goal is to reduce the number of times the child wets the bed and to manage the wetting until it goes away on its own.
Treatments that can be used at home vary in how well they work. Many treatments help the child learn to notice the signals sent by the bladder when it is full. Treatments can be used alone or together and may include:
- A moisture alarm. The alarm is worn on the body and makes a sound when urine first touches the child's underclothes. The child is encouraged to try to "beat the buzzer." Moisture alarms are the most successful treatment for bed-wetting, especially in children ages 10 and older.
- Motivational therapy. This method involves parents encouraging and reinforcing a child's sense of control over bed-wetting. Parents repeatedly tell their child that he or she can master bed-wetting. And they also work with the child to design a reward system that will encourage and motivate the child to stay dry. This treatment works best for children who want to take part in it.
- Desmopressin and tricyclic antidepressants. Although medicines help some children, bed-wetting usually returns after the medicine is stopped. They may be used with other treatments or as needed, such as for an overnight event. Sometimes medicine may be given for a few nights as a way to encourage or motivate a child by helping him or her experience nighttime dryness.
Depending on how you manage it, your child might feel punished or feel as though attention is being drawn to the wetting.
If you use medicines, your child may have side effects, including an irregular heartbeat. Keep medicines out of children's reach. Some can be very dangerous if taken in large doses.
If your child's bed-wetting isn't caused by a medical problem, it's fine to wait for the bed-wetting to stop on its own. It won't increase your child's risk for physical problems.
Bed-wetting may affect your child's self-esteem and relationships with peers and with family members. But you may be able to prevent these problems. Reassure your child that it is normal for some children to take a little longer than others to gain bladder control. Ask what your child would like to do to manage the problem until it goes away, and expect him or her to take responsibility for it (with your support).
Compare your options
What is usually involved?
What are the benefits?
What are the risks and side effects?
- You help your child use home treatments, medicine, or both.
- With treatment, your child may wet the bed less often.
- Home treatments can be time-consuming and require both you and your child to be committed to using them.
- Medicines for bed-wetting can cause side effects, such as an irregular heartbeat.
- You wait to see if the bed-wetting gets better on its own.
- You check with your child now and then to see if the bed-wetting is bothering him or her.
- You can avoid the side effects of medicines for bed-wetting.
- You avoid the inconvenience and stress of using home treatment methods.
- There are rarely any risks or side effects to not treating bed-wetting.
Personal stories about treatment for bed-wetting
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
My 10-year-old son still wets the bed once in a while. We've given him a sleeping bag that he puts on his bed after he puts the wet sheets in the laundry. He washes his own bedding and makes the bed again the next day. No one makes a big deal out of it, but he's responsible for managing it on his own.
Nick, age 47
Our son has no problem managing his bed-wetting at home, but he's really worried about what will happen when he goes to summer camp this year. The doctor suggested that we try this medicine to see if it works for him, and then he can just use it when he's away from home.
Claudia, age 40
I think I have more of a problem with my daughter's bed-wetting than she does. I've tried not to let her know it, but I feel like she could stop if she wanted to, even though another part of me knows that she doesn't do it on purpose. It doesn't seem to bother her very much (probably because her best girlfriend also wets the bed). I think it would help me to talk to someone about how I can handle my own feelings about it better.
Carlos, age 35
What matters most to you?
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to treat my child's bed-wetting
Reasons not to treat my child's bed-wetting
My child wants to try treatment.
My child does not want to try treatment.
I am concerned about how the bed-wetting is affecting my child's self-esteem.
I don't think that the bed-wetting is affecting my child's self-esteem.
I don't think that treatment will make my child feel ashamed.
I am worried that treatment may make my child feel ashamed.
The bed-wetting is affecting my relationship with my child.
The bed-wetting doesn't hurt my relationship with my child.
I am worried that the bed-wetting is affecting my child's schoolwork or relationships with friends or siblings.
The bed-wetting doesn't seem to affect my child's schoolwork or relationships with friends or siblings.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Where are you leaning now?
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Treating my child's bed-wetting
NOT treating my child's bed-wetting
What else do you need to make your decision?
Check the facts
Do most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own?
- YesThat's right. Some children take longer than others, but most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own.
- NoSorry, that's not right. Some children take longer than others, but most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own.
- I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." Some children take longer than others, but most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own.
Is medical treatment usually needed when children under the age of 5 or 6 wet the bed?
- YesSorry, that's not right. Medical treatment for bed-wetting usually isn't needed in children younger than 5 or 6. Home treatment may help you manage the wetting until the child stops on his or her own.
- NoThat's right. Medical treatment for bed-wetting usually isn't needed in children younger than 5 or 6. Home treatment may help you manage the wetting until the child stops on his or her own.
- I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." Medical treatment for bed-wetting usually isn't needed in children younger than 5 or 6.
Can medical problems cause a child to begin to wet the bed again after having been dry for at least 3 months?
- YesThat's right. If your child begins to wet the bed again after having been dry for at least 3 months, it can be a sign of a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection.
- NoSorry, that's not right. If your child begins to wet the bed again after having been dry for at least 3 months, it can be a sign of a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection.
- I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." If your child begins to wet the bed again after having been dry for at least 3 months, it can be a sign of a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection.
Decide what's next
Do you understand the options available to you?
Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics|
- Kiddoo D (2011). Nocturnal enuresis, search date February 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Last Updated:October 24, 2012