Bed-wetting is involuntary urination during sleep in children. Typically, children become able to sleep through the night without wetting around ages 3 to 5 years.
Enuresis is bed-wetting at least twice a week. There are two types of enuresis:
Urinary System in Child
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Bed-wetting is common and not usually related to a medical condition.
Some factors that may contribute to bed-wetting include:
In rare cases, bed-wetting may be a symptom of a health condition. These conditions may cause excess urine or prevent the bladder from completely emptying. They include:
Factors that increase the chance of bed-wetting include:
The child wakes up and finds the bed wet from urine.
Most children will have bladder control at night by about 5 years of age. Talk to your doctor if your child is about 5 years old and is still wetting the bed. Your doctor can help determine if the bed-wetting is just a normal part of your child's development or is caused by a condition that may need treatment.
Also call your doctor if your child:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will ask about:
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with a urine test.
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with:
If an underlying problem in the urinary tract is suspected, your child may be referred to a specialist.
Most children will stop bed-wetting by the time they reach puberty. However, bed-wetting can remain a problem for up to 1% of adults.
Most treatment aims to gradually reduce the number of bed-wettings until the child grows out of it. Treatment is rarely appropriate before age 6.
If your child's bed-wetting is caused by an infection or physical abnormality, a treatment plan will be created for that issue. Since this is uncommon, most children may be treated with one or more of these ways:
Bed-wetting is rarely an intentional act. Children are usually upset and ashamed when it happens. Do not punish the child. It is important that parents offer encouragement. The bed-wetting will stop with time. Do not let siblings tease the child who wets the bed.
Keep careful records of the child's progress. Offer consistent support. A simple motivational method is the use of positive feedback, such as a star chart.
Avoid giving the child anything to drink after 6:00-7:00 PM in the evening. Have your child urinate before going to bed. Sugar and caffeine should also be avoided after late afternoon.
A conditioning device may be recommended. One example is a pad with a buzzer that sounds when wet. The pad is worn in the child's underwear. The alarm will wake the child up to use the toilet. Parents may need to help the child get to the bathroom and reset the alarm.
Dry bed training is another type of therapy. With this training, you follow a schedule where you wake your child up during the night to use the bathroom.
Some doctors suggest bladder-stretching exercises. While awake, the child gradually increases the amount of time between urinations. Do not try this method without talking to the doctor. Holding in urine can lead to daytime wetting and urinary tract infections.
Medication is rarely given. However, it may be used for short-term situations like a sleepover or vacation. Some medications include:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Alberta Health and Wellness
Enuresis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 21, 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Facts for families: bed wetting. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bedwetting. Updated December 2011. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Lee T, Suh HJ, et al. Comparison of effects of treatment of primary nocturnal enuresis with oxybutynin plus desmopressin, desmopressin alone, or imipramine alone: a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Urol. 2005;174:1084-1087.
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Waking up dry: Helping your child overcome bedwetting. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/genitourinary-tract/Pages/Waking-Up-Dry-Helping-Your-Child-Overcome-Bedwetting.aspx. Updated May 9, 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.
12/13/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 2007 Safety Alerts for Drugs, Biologics, Medical Devices, and Dietary Supplements: Desmopressin acetate (marketed as DDAVP Nasal Spray, DDAVP Rhinal Tube, DDAVP, DDVP, Minirin, and Stimate Nasal Spray). US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2007/safety07.htm#Desmopressin. 2007 Dec 4.
9/23/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Glazener C, Evans J, Peto RE. Complex behavioural and educational interventions for nocturnal enuresis in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2004(1). CD004668. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004668.
10/10/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mellon M, Natchey B, Katusic S, et al. Incidence of enuresis and encopresis among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a population-based cohort. Acad Pediatr. 2013 Jul-Aug;13(4):322-327.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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