Wetting the bed is not only uncomfortable, it is embarrassing, especially for a child older than 3 years. And that’s not all. Afraid of waking up in a soaked bed, children who wet their beds may avoid going to pajama parties, friends’ houses or summer camp.

Three out of four toddlers stay dry all night by age 3-1/2. By age 5 years, one in five still wets the bed and at age 6, the numbers drop to one in ten. Just about all bed-wetting stops by the time children reach puberty. Boys are more likely to wet their beds than girls. Bed-wetting may start again during stressful times.

No one really knows what causes enuresis, the medical term for bed-wetting. From the 1930s through the 1960s, it was commonly believed that children who wet their beds had psychological problems. Today, it is suspected that bed-wetting may be caused by slow development of the nerves that control the bladder.

Even a small bladder unable to hold the urine produced during the night can result in bed-wetting. Bed-wetting can be a symptom of an serious illness such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection, especially if it starts in a child who has previously been dry through the night.

Self-Care Tips

Your patience and love will go a long way to help a child who wets the bed. Children have no control over this condition; they don’t wet the bed on purpose. Making them feel guilty, getting angry or acting disgusted will only delay solving this problem. Try to be understanding and supportive.

Psychologists recommend that you simply wait it out. Don’t praise them for a dry bed nor punish them when it’s wet. To help make life easier for your child and yourself, consider the following:

  • Have your child change the bed as well as his or her bed clothes during the night, if he or she is able to do so. Or, keep a flannel-covered rubber sheet nearby so your child can put it over the wet sheets.
  • Set an alarm clock two to three hours after your child falls asleep so he or she can be awakened to go to the bathroom.
  • Make sure your child urinates before getting into bed.
  • Encourage your child to follow instructions, if any, that the doctor suggests such as bladder-stretching or stream-interruption exercises, or behavior modification devices.
  • Obtain a bed-wetting alarm. (This is best suited for children 5 years and older). Modern enuresis alarms have moisture sensors that attach directly on the underwear. At the first drop of liquid, a buzzer sounds, waking up the child. Eventually, kids learn to wake up whenever they feel the urge to urinate. Newer models of these alarms can help prevent wet beds about 85 to 90 percent of the time.

Bed wetting alarms and information can be obtained from:

  • Nite Trainer Alarm: Koregon Enterprises, 9735 S.W. Sunshine Court, Beaverton, OR 97005, or call 800-544-4240.
  • Nytone Alarm: Nytone Medical Products, 2424 South 900 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84119, or call 801-973-4090.
  • Wet-Stop Alarm: Palco Laboratories, 8030 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95062, or call 800-346-4488.

Also, check with local home medical supply companies and local pharmacies that carry or can provide home medical equipment.

Questions to Ask

Does your child drink an excessive amount of fluids, urinate more than usual during the day and night and/or show other signs such as fatigue, increased appetite and weight gain and itching around the genitals?

Yes: See Doctor


Does your child have a fever, abdominal pain or burning when urinating?

Yes: See Doctor


Is your child older than 6 years and never been dry at night or has he or she been dry at night for an extended time and is now wetting again?
Yes: Call Doctor


Provide Self-Care

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021