Bedwetting is something parents normally expect to deal with in pre-school children, but it’s more common than you might imagine among older youngsters. Research shows it still affects about five per cent of children as old as nine.
So when should you worry?
Dr Chinnaiah Yemula, a consultant paediatrician and leading authority on bedwetting – or nocturnal enuresis – says children up to five haven’t usually developed a fully matured bladder, so it’s not considered abnormal.
But if it carries on beyond that, there is cause for concern.
Dr Yemula says: “This is mainly because children’s social lives change at about six or seven when they’re being invited for sleepovers or on overnight trips. It’s then it becomes a real worry for parents.”
Where can you turn for help?
“Your GP is a good starting point,’ says Brenda Cheer, a specialist continence paediatric.
“A doctor should know who oversees your local bedwetting services. It’s often the school nurse or paediatric continence service. You may be referred to a bedwetting clinic.
What can you do first?
Check that your child isn’t constipated – it can be linked to bedwetting.
Brenda says: “Around a third of children suffer from constipation at some time. If the bowel is full it can press against the bladder.
"Normal toilet visits are anything between three times a day and four times a week. A healthy bladder and bowels can be key to stopping bedwetting.”
Could bedwetting be caused by drinking too much?
Brenda reckons a child should drink 6-8 cups a day from a cup appropriate to their size.
She says: “Drinks should be evenly spread out so as not to stress the bladder. Not drinking an hour before bedtime might help.”
Do some drinks aggravate it?
Dr Yemula says: “There’s some evidence that drinks such as orange juice, squash, blackcurrant juice and fizzy pop can stimulate an already over-active bladder.
"Try cutting these out. And when children are having their final wee before bed, encourage them to count to 30 and then squeeze out any more so the bladder’s empty.”
Why don’t they wake up to pee?
“When some children are asleep, they don’t respond to the signal from their bladder to their brain that they need to wee,” says Brenda.
“One solution is a wearable alarm or bed mat that alerts the child when they start to urinate. At first they won’t wake up in time, but gradually it will train them to get up to go.”
Why can most of us go the night without a pee?
Brenda says: “Normally, we all make a hormone at night called vasopressin. When we sleep, it tells our kidneys to make less but more concentrated urine.
"But in some bedwetters, this hormone isn’t working. A sign of this is if they wet the bed very soon after going to sleep – and with lots of diluted wee rather than a small patch.”
Can medicines help?
“If there’s a problem with the vasopressin hormone, children can be given a medicine called desmopressin,” says Dr Yemula.
“It cuts the amount of wee produced by the kidneys so the bladder doesn’t fill up.”
Why do some “dry” children start wetting again?
“Moving schools, bullying or issues at home can sometimes be behind it,” says Brenda.
“Anxiety causes vasopressin levels to dip so the urine production isn’t reduced at night. Or the child may have slipped into bad habits, such as having a fizzy drink before bed.”
Will they grow out of it?
“In most cases yes, if they’re a mild (three times a week) or moderate (three-six times a week) bedwetter,” says Dr Yemula.
“But if they’re doing it every night it may last into their teens if not treated.
“If a parent was a bedwetter, there’s a 40% chance the child will be too. Knowing a parent had this same problem can reassure the child in dealing with it.’