It's common for children to accidentally wet themselves at night. When they're little they rarely see it as a problem, but as they get older they may start to find it annoying, just as parents do. We only really start to call it bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, once the child turns five.
Around one in ten seven-year-olds regularly wet the bed at night. At age 15, one in a hundred children still occasionally wet the bed. Bedwetting is completely harmless, and usually resolves itself in time.
Children often grow out of it
Bedwetting is often hereditary, and more common in boys than in girls until the teenage years. It is usually caused by the nervous system which controls the bladder developing late, and that problem tends to resolve itself.
Possible causes of bedwetting
If you are worried in the slightest, contact your paediatric clinic or call the medical advice hotline.
• A deficiency in the hormone vasopressin, which controls urine production by the kidneys
• Urinary tract infection
How to help your child stay dry through the night
To begin with, try helping your child to stop wetting the bed – assuming your child wants to do so.
Help your child:
• wee regularly while they are awake
• develop regular dietary habits
• drink less in the evening
• go to the toilet before bedtime
Bedwetting is usually treated when the child turns six, but younger children who are upset because of their bedwetting can also get help. Talk to your paediatric clinic, and they can decide if treatment is necessary.
Mattress protector and night nappies
Your district nurse can give you a full-size mattress protector if your child has been diagnosed as a bedwetter. There is no definitive evidence that continued use of night nappies extends bedwetting. Companies such as Libero make good-quality, discreet nappies for older children who may be sensitive about their bedwetting.
When should you seek help?
The most important thing is your child's perception of their situation and desire for treatment. Don't try and push your child into asking for treatment. If your child wants help, or if you personally are worried about the bedwetting, you can ask for help. You can go to the school nurse or school doctor, and children under six can get help from the paediatric clinic. You can also call the medical advice hotline.
Often a hereditary issue
If you or your partner wet the bed as a child, it's common for your child to do likewise. If both parents had this problem the risk rises to about 70 percent. Bedwetting is more common in boys than in girls. By the teenage years, it's about equally common in both sexes.
Potty training and giving up nappies
Dry nappy all night long