When Bedwetting Is A Problem


If you have kids, you’ve probably dealt with bedwetting at least a time or two over the years. It’s extremely common for young kids in particular to wet the bed at least occasionally. So, when does it become a problem?

Wetting the bed is often seen as a part of childhood. And it really is — most kids will wet the bed at some point. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that around 5 million children in the United States wet the bed.

So, when it happens to your child, don’t think you’re alone!

When Bedwetting Is a ProblemThis post is brought to you by our partners at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger

Most children grow out of bedwetting over time, but the age at which they grow out it varies between kids, much like the age a child is toilet-trained. According to the AAP, up to 5% of 10-year-olds even still wet the bed.

How can you know if your child’s bedwetting is normal, or if you should be talking with a doctor about an underlying cause? Daniel Herz, MD, former pediatric urologist at Erlanger Urology, offers some perspective. Read on to take a look.

Q: What exactly is bedwetting?

A: Let’s first get the easy question out of the way. Bedwetting is exactly what it sounds like — it’s urinating during the night among kids who are old enough to control the bladder.

That means that it’s not considered bedwetting when a young child still in diapers urinates during the night, nor is it considered bedwetting when a child who is potty-training does.

The technical term for bedwetting is “nocturnal enuresis.”

Q: Why does bedwetting occur?

A: There are a number of potential causes of bedwetting — and it’s most important to know that wetting the bed doesn’t occur because your child is lazy or willfully not following instructions.

A child who is wetting the bed doesn’t have control over that action, since it occurs during sleep.

There are two different main types of bedwetting: primary and secondary. Primary means that your child has never gotten past the stage of urinating in the bed at night, while secondary means you had a child who stayed dry for a while and then began wetting the bed.

The two types often have different underlying causes. For example, if your child is a primary bedwetter, it likely means that he or she can’t hold urine through the entire night, produces a lot of urine during the night hours or may have poor daytime potty habits.

Secondary bedwetting is more likely to be caused by some sort of underlying medical issue, which may include urinary tract infections, diabetes, emotional issues, neurological problems or a structural abnormality.

Q: How can I help my child through bedwetting?

A: That’s a great question. Parents can take a number of steps to help kids work through and overcome bedwetting. These include:

  • Encouraging your child and not making him or feel guilty
  • Having your child drink more in the daytime and less at night
  • Having your child avoid caffeinated beverages, which can stimulate the need to urinate
  • Having your child urinate one last time immediately before bedtime
  • Developing a reward system for making it through the night dry
  • Waking your child to urinate in the time period just before he or she usually wets the bed
  • Placing a plastic cover under the sheets to keep the mattress from getting wet and retaining odors

Q: When should I talk with our doctor about bedwetting?

A: That’s a bit of a trick question, because you should you talk to your doctor about any topic that concerns you or comes up in your mind. But there are certain signs that it’s time to chat with your pediatrician or a pediatric urologist.

Talk with a doctor if your child:

  • Begins wetting the bed again after being dry for at least six months
  • Begins to regress and wet his or her pants during the daytime hours
  • Has any urinary symptoms, such as pain, when urinating
  • Is suddenly drinking or eating more than normal
  • Has visible swelling of the feet or ankles
  • Is age 7 or older and still wetting the bed at least a couple times a week

But the biggest thing to know is that wetting the bed is common — and it can occur at many stages of childhood without being a lingering problem.

Erlanger Urology provide a full spectrum of care for urologic health needs. This includes comprehensive pediatric urology services to meet the unique needs of kids. Call (423) 778-5910 to schedule an appointment.