Incontinence in children is known as enuresis – but is more commonly known as bed-wetting. It very generally takes two forms: nocturnal enuresis, or bed-wetting at night, is the more common. Daytime wetting is called diurnal enuresis. Because it’s normal for children under the age 3 to not have full bladder control, the condition is usually not diagnosed unless the child is 5 years or older.
Nocturnal enuresis affects around half a million children and teenagers in the UK and is frequently something families find hard to talk about. And currently the impact of the recent pandemic is very evident, with many parents reporting an increase in bed-wetting, likely to be a result of heightened anxiety in their children.
So what usually causes incontinence in children?
There are many different causes. It can be the result of an underlying health condition, whether that’s a small bladder, the impact of constipation, a urinary tract infection (UTI) or even type 1diabetes. It can equally be the result of behavioural or emotional disorders – whether that’s stress or a developmental delay that might have interfered with toilet training.
Children who are heavy sleepers are naturally more prone to bedwetting, and rather surprisingly, the condition can run in families. If one parent wet the bed as a child, then their child has a 40% chance of doing the same; if both parents wet the bed, there’s a 70% chance.
What should you do if your child is regularly wetting?
Your first stop needs to be your GP. He or she will want to do a physical examination to eliminate any medical disorders, and possibly run some tests to rule out infection or diabetes. If the result is that there are no medical reasons why wetting is occurring, they may refer you to a special clinic. These are usually run by school health nurses, paediatricians or paediatric continence nurses, and their job is work with you to decide the most appropriate treatment.
Are there other organisations that can help with advice?
Yes! ERIC.org.uk is the main organisation for enuresis and you can call or email their helpline advisors to discuss your child’s condition. They will offer ideas on how to manage the problem and they offer a wide range of support and information for parents and carers.
What are the tips for managing enuresis?
Many parents will say that incontinence in children is not such a big problem once you learn ways to manage it. For bedwetting, it certainly makes sense to get waterproof mattress protectors and perhaps other waterproof bedding – you can take a look at our selection here
You can also obtain bedwetting alarms from organisations such as ERIC, which are really helpful to children who don’t wake up when their bladder is full
Bladder training, medications and other management tips may also be suggested by your doctor or clinic.
How long might a child have enuresis?
It might be useful to remember that bed-wetting is more frequent than you might think. According to ERIC, on average 1 in 10 five year olds wet the bed and 1 in 15 ten year olds wet the bed. And while most children will grow out of the condition before they hit their teens, only a very small number, about 1%, may continue to have a problem into adulthood.
If you would like to discuss suitable products for your child, please don’t hesitate to email or call us. In the meantime, here are some other articles you might find helpful: