Soggy sheets and pajamas — and an embarrassed child — are a familiar scene in many homes. But don’t despair. Bed-wetting isn’t a sign of toilet training gone bad. It’s often just a normal part of a child’s development. Wetting the bed can be an embarrassing issue among kids, but it’s actually very common.
Bed-wetting is also known as nighttime incontinence or nocturnal enuresis. Generally, bed-wetting before age 7 isn’t a concern and that more than 5 million children experience it. At this age, your child may still be developing nighttime bladder control. According to the Mayo Clinic, 15 percent of children still wet the bed by age 5, but less than 5 percent of kids do so by ages 8 to 11.
Bed-wetting tends to run in families and is more common among boys than girls; experts estimate the ratio as roughly 2 boys to 1 girl. Although most children eventually outgrow this phase. If bed-wetting continues, treat the problem with patience and understanding. Bladder training, moisture alarms or medication may help reduce bed-wetting.
Bed-wetting is involuntary urination while asleep after the age at which staying dry at night can be reasonably expected.
Most kids are fully toilet trained by age 5, but there’s really no target date for developing complete bladder control. Between the ages of 5 and 7, bed-wetting remains a problem for some children. After 7 years of age, a small number of children still wet the bed.
No one knows for sure what causes bed-wetting, but various factors may play a role:
- A small bladder. Your child’s bladder may not be developed enough to hold urine produced during the night.
- Inability to recognize a full bladder. If the nerves that control the bladder are slow to mature, a full bladder may not wake your child — especially if your child is a deep sleeper.
- A hormone imbalance. During childhood, some kids don’t produce enough anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) to slow nighttime urine production.
- Stress. Stressful events — such as becoming a big brother or sister, starting a new school, or sleeping away from home — may trigger bed-wetting.
- Urinary tract infection. This infection can make it difficult for your child to control urination. Signs and symptoms may include bed-wetting, daytime accidents, frequent urination, red or pink urine, and pain during urination.
- Sleep Apnea. Sometimes bed-wetting is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which the child’s breathing is interrupted during sleep — often due to inflamed or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Other signs and symptoms may include snoring, frequent ear and sinus infections, sore throat, or daytime drowsiness.
- Diabetes. For a child who’s usually dry at night, bed-wetting may be the first sign of diabetes. Other signs and symptoms may include passing large amounts of urine at once, increased thirst, fatigue and weight loss in spite of a good appetite.
- Chronic constipation. The same muscles are used to control urine and stool elimination. When constipation is long term, these muscles can become dysfunctional and contribute to bed-wetting at night.
- A structural problem in the urinary tract or nervous system. Ra
rely, bed-wetting is related to a defect in the child’s neurological system or urinary system.
Several factors have been associated with an increased risk of bed-wetting, including:
- Being male. Bed-wetting can affect anyone, but it’s twice as common in boys as girls.
- Family history. If one or both of a child’s parents wet the bed as children, their child has a significant chance of wetting the bed, too.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Bed-wetting is more common in children who have ADHD.
Although frustrating, bed-wetting without a physical cause doesn’t pose any health risks. However, bed-wetting can create some issues for your child, including:
- Guilt and embarrassment, which can lead to low self-esteem
- Loss of opportunities for social activities, such as sleepovers and camp
- Rashes on the child’s bottom and genital area — especially if your child sleeps in wet underwear
Tests and diagnosis
Your child will need a physical exam. Depending on the circumstances, your doctor may recommend:
- Urine tests to check for signs of an infection or diabetes
- X-rays or other imaging tests of the kidneys or bladder, if the doctor suspects a structural problem with your child’s urinary tract or another health concern
- Other types of tests or assessments, if other health issues are suspected
Treatments and drugs
Consult your doctor before beginning any medication. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition.
Important Links –
Say No to Child Sexual Abuse
Childhood Obesity in India – AllizHealth Study
Monitor your toddler’s growth using Child Growth Charts
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