A group of young children smiling to illustrate that treatment is available for bedwetting

What treatment is available for bedwetting?

Bedwetting is considered a medical condition in anyone who is wet more than two nights a week and is five years old or more. There is treatment available for the condition.

Is bedwetting a normal part of growing up?

Children cannot learn to be dry at night in the same way as they do during the day.

To become dry at night the kidneys must be able to reduce overnight urine production. The bladder must be large enough and work well to be able to hold all the urine made at night. If these are not happening, the affected person must be able to wake up when the bladder needs to empty. If the brain is not able to wake to the person via bladder signals, the bladder will empty during sleep.

Does bedwetting get better with time?

Some children will ‘grow out’ of bedwetting. However, not only is it difficult to predict who will get better if no treatment is offered, but it is also not possible to say when the wetting will stop. There is evidence that children who are wet most nights are least likely to get better without treatment. 

Does bedwetting affect older children and adults?

Bedwetting is not just a problem for young children. ‘Primary enuresis’, which is the medical term given to bedwetting that has continued since toilet training, affects about 3% of adolescents and about ½ – 1% of adults. 

Why might bedwetting become a problem after dry nights?

If bedwetting starts after a child, young person or adult, has been dry at night for at least six months, it is called ‘secondary enuresis’. Sometimes there is an obvious trigger for this, like a urinary tract infection. And sometimes it is not possible to work out why it has started. Rarely, there may be an underlying medical issue, which needs treatment. That is why it is important to discuss any new bedwetting with a healthcare professional.

What treatments are there for bedwetting?

Your healthcare professional may suggest some simple lifestyle changes to help. There is more information about these in the Bladder & Bowel UK blog – www.bbuk.org.uk/nutrition-and-hydration-tips-for-children. However, many do need one or more of the different treatments available.

  • Medication:

There is a medication called Desmopressin that helps to tell the kidneys to make less urine overnight.  This is available on prescription from your healthcare professional. There is more information about it in the Bladder & Bowel UK leaflet Understanding Desmopressin (Desmomelt) for parents and carers – www.bbuk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Understanding-Desmopressin.pdf.

  • Alarms:

Alarms make a loud noise and or vibrate when they sense the bladder leakage. Some alarms can be attached to pyjamas (body-worn alarms) or they have a mat that goes under the top sheet (bed mat alarms).

The noise is designed to wake the child, young person or adult as their bladder starts to let go, so that they can get up and go to the toilet. They can take some time to be effective. While it is not clear exactly how they work, they do help some to learn to wake to the bladder signals. Others learn to hold on all night.

There is more information about using alarms as a treatment for bedwetting here – www.bbuk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Using-a-wetting-alarm-for-toilet-training.pdf.

What other treatment options may be needed for bedwetting?

If there is any constipation this will usually be treated first. That is because a constipated bowel can put pressure on the bladder and cause bedwetting. 

Daytime problems, like dampness, wetting, needing the toilet in a hurry or frequently should be addressed. As these can affect how the bladder works at night. Many children will be asked to adjust their fluid intake and toileting habits to see if this help. Some children may need medication to treat daytime wetting.

Some need other medication to help the bladder work well and some children need to have more than one treatment. Therefore, bedwetting in anyone over five years old should be assessed by a healthcare professional.

Your Healthcare professional will talk to you about the options available and help you and your child chose which treatment to try first.

Where can I find more information about bedwetting?

There is more information about bedwetting on the Bladder & Bowel UK website – www.bbuk.org.uk/children-young-people/resources-for-children – and in other blogs on the Bladder & Bowel UK website – www.bbuk.org.uk/?s=bedwetting. There is also information at Stop Bedwetting – https://stopbedwetting.org – and at World Bedwetting Week – www.worldbedwettingweek.com.

Where can I get more advice and help?

Your child or young person’s GP, school nurse or health visitor should be able to provide more information and initial assessment. They may be able to refer your child to a local service for support. You can also contact the Bladder & Bowel UK helpline for free confidential information and advice via the webform – https://www.bbuk.org.uk/helpline-enquiries – or on the telephone at 0161 214 4591.


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