5 year old girl in bed with her cuddly soft toys

This post has been written by June Rogers, Children’s Specialist Nurse at Bladder & Bowel UK, for this year’s World Bedwetting Day. Bedwetting, sometimes called enuresis, is a common childhood problem affecting around 20% of all 5 year olds. Historically bedwetting was thought to be something children would ‘grow out’ of. However we now have a much better understanding of the problem and recognise that bedwetting is actually a medical condition. Affected children need assessment and treatment.

Children who are 5 years old or more and have been dry during the day for at least three months and are still wetting when they are asleep have bedwetting. These children should have access to appropriate assessment and treatment. This includes children with additional needs, (children with daytime wetting should also be offered support).

Staying dry at night is a fine balance between how much urine (wee) is produced at night during sleep, and the ability of the bladder to store that urine

Also a crucial factor in staying dry is the ability to recognise and wake up to go to the toilet if the bladder becomes full before morning. The ability to wake to go to the toilet is often called ‘arousability’. Some children wet the bed because their kidneys produce too much urine during sleep.

Other children wet the bed because of a problem with their bladder. Some children may have a problem with both of these. However, all children who wet the bed have a problem, to some degree, with arousability. This means they are not able to wake up in response to bladder signals. So, the bladder empties and the bed gets wet.

We know bedwetting runs in families. Another contributory factor includes what, when and how much children drink. Constipation can also be a major cause in up to 50% of children who have bedwetting, although children and their families often don’t know they are constipated. If left untreated the child can become so bunged up  they are unable to open their bowels normally (called ‘impaction’) and starts to soil.

man holding 2 children and 1 running in the field

Untreated bedwetting

Untreated bedwetting can have a detrimental effect on the child’s health and wellbeing. This may happen because families do not actively seek help. They may believe their child will get better on their own. And at times, have a fear of embarrassment. If their child has additional needs they may think that the bedwetting is due to the child’s disability, even if the child has been fully toilet trained in the day.

Of more concern is the fact that many healthcare professionals don’t understand the causes of bedwetting. They may not recognise it as a medial problem. And they are often unaware that bedwetting should be treated from 5 years old. As a result there is a delay in treatment until the child is older. And the bedwetting is having a more serious impact on their life.

To help raise awareness that bedwetting is a condition that requires assessment and treatment World Bedwetting Day was launched in 2015. This year it falls on Tuesday 28th May. We have found that giving families information about the causes of bedwetting and the range of treatments available goes a long way to make sure that affected children have the right support and advice. This helps treatment outcomes.

Resources for families and professionals

save the day by fighting bedwetting at night graphic

To that end both Bladder & Bowel UK and the www.stopbedwetting.org website have developed a range of resources to help raise awareness of bedwetting and empower families. The Stop Bedwetting website describes parents and carers as ‘Superheroes’ who can help their child fight bedwetting. It gives lots of tips and resources. These include a check list for parents and carers about lifestyle changes that help with bedwetting. The Bladder & Bowel UK website has a range of downloadable resources for families and professionals, as well as links to helpful videos.

For further advice and information, do not hesitate to contact Bladder & Bowel UK via the confidential helpline, 0161 214 4591 or via email bbuk@disabledliving.co.uk.

Further information regarding World Bedwetting Day can be found here: https://www.worldbedwettingday.com/


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