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World Continence Week: Bed-wetting - What is it and how can it be managed?

It is World Continence Week and our Continence Nurse is taking the time to explain fact about bed wetting, what can cause it and how parents can help manage. 

What Is Bed-wetting?

Bed-wetting, known as nocturnal enuresis, is when a child of five or older empties their bladder while they are asleep every night, every other night or occasionally. Bed-wetting is common, with an estimated one in every five Australian children in Australia wet the bed.

Bed-wetting can run in families. It is more common in boys than girls before the age of nine.

Children who wet the bed are not lazy or being naughty. Most children do not have major health problems. Some illnesses are linked with bedwetting.

What Causes Bed-wetting?

Wetting the bed is caused by a mix of three things:

  1. Not being able to fully wake up from sleep.
  2. The body making a large amount of wee or No 1’s (urine) through the night.
  3. or a bladder might only store a small amount of wee.

Many children are dry through the day by three years and dry at night by school age. Daytime control of the bladder comes before night-time dryness, usually.  Any child may still wet every now and then, day or night, up until they are seven or eight years or older.  If a child has a disability it may be older. After age eight or nine, if the child is still wetting, the problem usually does not get better by itself.

Punishing and shaming a child for wet beds or in front of friends or family can be damaging to a child health. Research shows lifting the child at night to toilet them is not supportive. This may cut down on some wet beds but it does not help the child learn to be dry. Bed-wetting control measure at a stressful time should be avoided. If the child who has been dry suddenly starts wetting at night can be related to starting at school, upset or angry because of bed-wetting or other stressful happenings in the life.

What Can Parents Do?
  • Make sure a night light is used. This makes it easy to get to the toilet.
  • Watch for constipation as this can make bladder problems worse. Seek medical help if constipation is an ongoing problem.
  • Ensure fluid intake is adequate for the age of the child. Are they drinking too much or too little?
  • Introduce a bed-wetting alarm. The alarm can help to wake you up so you can check on your child, check if the bed is wet and needs changing, or, to wake your child up to prompt them to go to the toilet. If you have tried alarm treatment before, give it another go as it can still help.
  • Seek help from a health professional with special training in children’s bladder problems, such as a doctor, continence physiotherapist or continence nurse advisor. Medicines help the bladder store more urine. Others reduce how much urine is produced overnight. One or more medicines can be used. Sometimes medicines are used with a bed-wetting alarm. It may help to use medicines just for special times such as a sleepover.
  • Review appointments with your child’s continence professional are just as important as the first appointment.

Many children do stop wetting in their own time with no help.

It is ok to seek help! You are not alone. Poor bladder and bowel control can be fixed or at least well managed

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