Overview

Bedwetting
Bedwetting

Bedwetting is common and often runs in families. It can be upsetting, but most children and  young people will grow out of it. See a GP or school nurse for advice.

Bedwetting treatments you can try at home

  • give your child enough water to drink during the day
  • make sure your child goes to the toilet regularly, around 4 to 7 times a day, including just before bedtime
  • agree with your child on rewards for positive actions, such as sticker for every time they use the toilet before bed
  • use waterproof covers on their mattress and duvet
  • make sure they have easy access to a toilet at night

Reassure your child. It's important for them to know they haven't done anything wrong, and it will get better.

Do not give your child drinks containing caffeine, such as cola, tean and coffee - this can make them pee more

Do not regularly wake or carry your child in the night to use the toilet - this will not help in the long term

Bedwetting in young children is normal

Many children under the age of 5 wet the bed.

It can take some time for a child to learn to stay dry throughout the night

When to see your GP

It's a good idea to speak to your GP if:

  • you have tried things at home and your child keeps wetting the bed
  • your child has suddenly started wetting the bed after they've been dry for more than 6 months

Bedwetting treatments from your GP

Your doctor may recommend a bedwetting alarm.  These are moisture-sensitive pads your child wears on their night clothes.  An alarm sounds if they start to wee.

Medicine to reduce how much pee your child makes at night

 If these treatments do not work, your child may be referred to a specialist

Causes of bedwetting

There are many reasons why a child might wet the bed.

Causes include

  • not feeling the need to pee while sleeping
  • has an overactive bladder, meaning it can only hold a small amont of wee
  • stress at school or home

Bedwetting may also be caused by an underlying health condition such as diabetes or constipation

More information

ERIC, The Children's Bowel and Bladder Charity, is a UK-based charity for people affected by bedwetting. Their website has useful advice for both children and parents.

ERIC has a helpline on 0845 370 8008 (Monday to Thursday, 10am to 2pm) or you can email helpline@eric.org.uk.

 

 

 

Who can get it

Bedwetting is not your child's fault and there's often no obvious reason why it happens. In many cases, bedwetting runs in families.

Sometimes there may be more than one underlying cause.

Having drinks before bed

Drinking lots of fluid in the evening could cause your child to wet the bed during the night, particularly if they have a small bladder.

Drinks containing caffine, such as cola, tea and coffee, can also increase the urge to wee.

Not waking during the night

Once the amount of urine in the bladder reaches a certain point, most people wake up as they feel the need to go to the toilet.

But some younger children are particularly deep sleepers and their brain doesn't respond to signals sent from their bladder, so they don't wake up.

In some children, the nerves attached to the bladder may not be fully develped yet, so they don't send a strong enough signal to the brain.

Sometimes a child may wake up during the night with a full bladder but not go to the toilet.  This may be because of the childhood fears, such as being scared of the dark.

Underlying health condition

Bedwetting can also be caused by an underlying health condition, such as:

  • constipation – if a child's bowels become blocked with hard poo, it can put pressure on the bladder and lead to bedwetting
  • a urinary tract infection (UTI) – your child may also have other symptoms, such as a fever and pain when they wee
  • type 1 diabetes – other symptoms of this include tiredness and feeling thirsty all the time 

Emotional problems

In some cases, bedwetting can be a sign your child is upset or worried.  Starting a new school, being bullied, or the arrival of a new baby in the family can be very stressful for a young child.

If your child has started wetting the bed after being dry at night for a while, there may be an emotional issue beind it.

Treatment

Most children stop wetting the bed as they get older, but there are a number of treatments you can try in the meantime.

Self-help for bedwetting

These measures may help prevent bedwetting.

Offer plenty of drinks during the day

Make sure your child has enough to drink during the day - see guidance on how much fluid your child should be having.  It's best to avoid drinks for an hour before bedtime.

Avoid drinks that contain caffine, such as cola, tea, coffee or hot chocolate, because they increase the urge to wee.

Encourage regular toilet breaks

Encourage your child to go to the toilet regularly during the day. Make sure your child has a wee before going to bed and can get to the toilet easily during the night.

Try a reward scheme

Bedwetting isn't something your child can control, so rewards shouldn't be based on whether they wet the bed or not.

Instead, you may want to give rewards for things like:

  • having plenty of drinks during the day
  • remembering to have a wee before bed

If your reward scheme isn't working after about a week, it's best to stop and try something else.

It's important not to punish your child or withdraw treats if they wet the bed. This could put them under more stress, which could lead to more bedwetting, not less.

Tips for managing bedwetting

  • Make sure your child has easy access to the toilet at night. For example, if they have a bunk bed, they should sleep on the bottom bunk. You could also leave a light on in the bathroom and put a child's seat on the toilet.
  • Use waterproof covers on your child's mattress and duvet.
  • Avoid waking your child in the night or carrying them to the toilet, as it's not likely to help them in the long term.
  • Older children may want to change their own bedding at night, so make sure they have clean bedding and nightclothes handy.

If you or your child are finding it difficult to cope with bedwetting, talk to your GP.

Bedwetting alarms

If self-help tips don't help, a bedwetting alarm is usually the next step.

A bedwetting alarm has a sensor attached to an alarm. If the sensor gets wet, it sets the alarm off and wakes your child up.

You can also get vibrating alarms for children who have impaired hearing.

Where can you get bedwetting alarms?

Bedwetting alarms aren't available on the NHS, but you may be able to borrow one from your local enuresis or continence clinic. Your GP can tell you more.

You can also buy bedwetting alarms. ERIC: the Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity sells them for around £40-140, depending on the type. Or you can buy one elsewhere online.

How do they work?

Over time, the alarm should help your child to learn when they need to wee and wake up to go to the toilet.

It may help to reward your child for getting up when the alarm sounds and remembering to reset the alarm.

Bedwetting alarms usually need to be used for at least four weeks. If there are no signs of improvement after four weeks, speak to your doctor.

Bedwetting alarms aren't suitable for every child – for example, if they are sharing a room with a sibling.

Medicines for bedwetting

If a bedwetting alarm doesn't help or isn't suitable, treatment with medicines is usually recommended.

Your GP may suggest a medicine called desmopressin. This helps reduce the amount of wee produced by the kidneys. It's taken just before your child goes to bed.

If desmopressin or a bedwetting alarm (or a combination of both) doesn't help, your child may be referred to a specialist, who may recommend other medicines



The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 02/07/2021 10:27:36