KIDS’ BLADDER HEALTH: How to Cope with Bedwetting

This is the second article in a 6-part series on Kids’ Health Tips from Dr. Erik Bostrom, family physician at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin.

Bedwetting is common among young children. About 40 percent of 3-year-olds wet the bed. Sometimes a child’s bladder is simply not developed enough to store urine for an entire night. Other times a child has not yet mastered the ability to recognize when the bladder is full, wake up and get to the toilet.

Typically, a child becomes toilet trained between ages 2 and 3, but some won’t be able to stay dry through the night until they are older. By age 5 or 6, 85 percent of children can stay dry, but some children still wet the bed from time to time until age 10 or 12.

Sometimes a child who has been dry at night will begin to wet the bed again. This may be triggered by family stress or school problems. As a child’s systems mature, he/she is less likely to wet at night. By the teen years, or much earlier, almost all kids who wet the bed have outgrown the problem with only 1 percent or less still having issues.

Family history plays a role, too. If you wet the bed as a child, don’t be surprised when your child does, too.

When to Talk to Doctor

Bring up bedwetting any time you or your child thinks it has become a problem. If your child has been dry and then starts to wet the bed, tell your doctor right away. Your doctor can evaluate your child to be sure the problem isn’t stress-related or due to an underlying medical condition. Only 1% of all bedwetting problems are traced to diabetes, infections, abnormalities of the bladder or kidney, or another medical condition. If your child has any unusual symptoms such as burning while urinating or passing bloody urine, talk to the doctor right away.

What Parents Can Do

To help prevent and cope with bedwetting:

  • Encourage a child to pee before bedtime.
  • Limit fluid intake in the evening.
  • Cover the mattress with plastic.
  • Use a bed-wetting alarm, which senses urine and wakes child to get up and use the toilet.

Remember, that bedwetting in children typically gets better on its own, but talk to your doctor about any concerns and ways to help your child. Don’t punish your child for wetting the bed; instead, reward him or her when staying dry for the entire night.