It is normal for a child up to seven years old to wet the bed, either nightly or occasionally during the day. There is no set rule for when the bladder will reach full maturity. While it is a common occurrence it is always helpful to seek the advice of a physician and have regular check-ups for the child to insure that there are not underlying medical problems causing these occurrences.
The medical name for bedwetting is enuresis. There are two types of enuresis; primary and secondary.
Primary enuresis is diagnosed when children have never or rarely had a dry night. Secondary enuresis is diagnosed when children have had an episode of dry nights for as long as six months and then begin wetting the bed again.
Medical Reasons for Bedwetting
Although rare there are some medical reasons for bedwetting. Most of these problems can be ruled out with a simple check-up including a urinalysis test.
1. Urinary Tract Infections-The most common medical cause and the easiest to cure are common urinary tract infections. If determined that your child has a urinary tract infection medication can be given along with tips to prevent future infection. For example in girls making sure they are wiping from front to back, the avoidance of or reduction of bubble baths, and touching the area with dirty hands.
2. Diabetes- Again, this problem can be ruled out with a common urine test and/or blood test at your child’s regular physical.
3. Congenital malformations of the genitourinary tract- Although rare it is worthy of mention.
4. Spinal Cord abnormalities or injury- Though rare spinal cord abnormalities can affect the nerves that control the bladder.
When should I have these problems checked out? You should have these problems checked out at your child’s regularly scheduled check-up or if your child complains about pain going to the bathroom or there is blood in the urine. Blood in the urine appears to be dark amber or streaked with bright red. Not all dark urine is a result of blood; certain colored foods and beverages may cause this, or dehydration may be another cause.
What if the tests are negative or inconclusive? You can always follow-up on the problem at your child’s next child scheduled doctor’s visit.
If nothing is wrong with my child physically how can I help my child learn to stop wetting the bed? There is no easy answer to this; generally it is due to the bladder just not being mature enough to make it through the day or night. In this case it is best to help the child by not making a big deal of it but also praising the child for a dry period.
Should I wait for the problem to go away by itself or should I intervene? Some children are deep sleepers, if this is the case you can purchase alarms for the pads on your child’s bed, sometimes it takes only a little help to wake your child and get them started on a set pattern. Also, I highly recommend for the sake of you and your child to purchase double pads, preferably washable as this is a greener approach to the disposable alternative. When the child has wet through the first pad, it makes it very easy for you or the child to pull it off in the middle of the night and again sleep in comfort.
No matter the reason, for your child’s bedwetting, it is especially important that you let the child know this is a common situation in children, teenagers and even in some adults. They should not be shamed or compared to siblings who grew out of it more quickly. They should still be able to have sleepovers- there is a product on the market that will fit inside a sleeping bag and removed in private by the host’s parents. You’ll find that most people are quite understanding of this very common problem and will do their best to help your child avoid embarrassment. Chances are at a big sleep over or camp there are plenty of other children living with this situation as well.