Bedwetting is an inherited medical condition which often runs in families. Despite the myths which abound, it is not due to laziness, behavioural or psychological problems. The child has no voluntary control over it as it occurs when he/she is asleep.
Bedwetting is common, affecting 15-20% of 5-year olds and 5% of 10-year olds. Most children 'grow out of it'. However, it has a significant effect on a child's self-esteem, lifestyle and social relationships.
Bedwetters do not wake when their bladders are full. In many cases they produce less of a hormone called ADH during sleep, resulting in larger amounts of urine production at night.
Children who start wetting the bed after being previously dry or who wet themselves during the day may have a different problem and should see their GP.
Treatment for bedwetting
Treatment is effective in over 90% of cases and is advised from about age 6.
A bedwetting alarm should be tried first. The alarm rings when a leakage of urine is detected and helps train the child to wake when the bladder is full. It is usually used for about 2 months and helps about 75% of children become dry.
When the alarm is not effective, desmopressin spray or tablets can be used to reduce the amount of urine produced at night. This medication works rapidly and is effective in about 70% of cases but does not usually cure the condition long-term. It is especially useful for sleepovers and school camps, but is also safe for long-term use. Side-effects (e.g. nasal irritation, headache) are usually minor.
Reward charts, waking the child at night to go to the toilet and restricting evening fluids are not effective.
For further help, speak to your GP or visit www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.