Q: [School-Aged] My son was invited to a Back to School sleepover. The problem? He still has occasional “misses” when it comes to bedwetting. With a bunch of kids staying up late and loads of junk food and drinks, I just dread the possibility his year will kick off with embarrassment. He’s far too old for pullups or similar products, which makes me think this could be an issue we should deal with.
A: Getting up in the middle of the night to change wet sheets and console an embarrassed child happens in most homes at some point. Generally, bedwetting before age seven isn’t too much of a concern, but if it persists, it might be time to seek help.
The old school of thought says bedwetting occurs in children who are deep sleepers and have higher-than-normal urine production. We now know this isn’t the case. It happens because the connection between the brain and the bladder isn’t firing quite right. For some kids, this connection simply takes longer to develop.
Bedwetting happens more frequently in boys than in girls and if both parents were bedwetters, their child has a 50/50 chance of also having an issue. It even affects up to three percent of teenagers.
To end bedwetting, we need to train the brain to better respond when the bladder is full.
There are tools, such as alarms that can be placed in the underwear, that sound when a child starts to urinate. The theory is: The alarm goes off early enough in the process to wake the child so they can make it to the bathroom. However, for this method to really be effective, a parent should be in the same room so when the alarm sounds, they can ensure their child gets up in time to use the restroom.
There also is medication available to reduce urine output at night so there is a lesser chance of bedwetting. The most important thing to know during this process is to never blame your child for wetting the bed. Don’t punish, shame or make fun of them, because it is not their fault.
And if your child previously stayed dry at night and seems to have started bed wetting out of nowhere, there could be other issues going on such as a urinary tract infection or constipation.
In that scenario, call your doctor right away.
Meigan Everts, M.D., FAAP, is a pediatrician with Hoag Medical Group. Having practiced medicine for over 30 years, Dr. Everts provides comprehensive pediatric care with an emphasis on long-term development. She enjoys seeing her patients year after year, following their journey. www.hoagmedicalgroup.com