Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Enuresis (say: "en-yer-ee-sis"} is the medical
term for bed-wetting. This term applies to children who wet the bed only at
night when they're sleeping, not during the day.
When do most children achieve
Children achieve bladder control at different
ages. By the age of 5 years, most children no longer urinate in their sleep.
Bed-wetting up to the age of 5 is not unusual, even though it may be frustrating
to parents. Treating a child for bed-wetting before the age of 5 is not
necessary and may even be harmful to the child.
What causes bed-wetting?
The exact cause of most bed-wetting is not
known. Many factors are involved. In some children, the cause may be genetic
(bed-wetting tends to run in families). In other children, nighttime bed-
wetting may occur because more urine is produced during sleep. Another cause of
bed-wetting may be a small bladder and its inability to hold urine for a long
A less common cause of bed-wetting may be a
problem with the bladder, the kidneys or the nervous system. Deep sleep is not
thought to be a cause of bed-wetting. Emotional stress usually is not a cause,
but it may be for a child who has had full bladder control for a long time and
then starts wetting the bed again. Most of the time, bed-wetting is not a sign
of illness, stress or a mental problem. Your doctor can help you decide if your
child needs special testing.
Will my child outgrow bed-wetting?
If your child has no other medical or emotional
problems, there is a very good chance that he or she will outgrow the problem,
even without treatment. If your child is older than 6 or 7, your doctor will
probably suggest treatment, because bed-wetting may cause your child to think
poorly of himself or herself and to be embarrassed about sleeping away from
What is the best treatment for
Your child should be seen by your family doctor
to see if special testing is needed. If your child is healthy and no reason for
the bed-wetting is found (this will be the case about 90% of the time), your
doctor may suggest a few different treatments. Some of these treatments are
- A special pad attached to your child's underwear
at bedtime senses when the child urinates and causes an alarm to sound or a
buzzer to go off.
- Medicine in the form of pills, liquids or a nasal
- A reward system for dry nights.
- Asking your child to change the bed sheets when
he or she wets.
- Having your child practice holding his or her
urine for longer and longer times.
Should I punish my
child for wetting the bed?
No. Punishing your child for wetting the bed
will not solve the problem. Your child doesn't wet the bed on purpose. He or she
needs your love and support. You may feel frustrated at times, but your child
may be too. Asking your doctor for help will be better for both you and your