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Categories > Children’s Health > Other childhood disorders

Beating the bed-wetting blues
Usually no physical basis
Stressful relapse
Seeking treatment


Helping your child to dry nights
Helping your child to dry nights

  • Use stars to signal dry nights on a wall chart hung in the child’s room. Plan toward a small reward after a certain number of consecutive stars are acquired.
  • Restrict the child’s fluid intake for two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Make sure the child urinates immediately before bedtime.
  • Accompany the child to the bathroom once during the night.
  • Never scold or humiliate the child for bed-wetting.

One thing’s for sure: Kids don’t like wetting the bed any more than moms like dealing with soiled linens. For the child, bed-wetting may be a source of humiliation. For parents, it’s a test of patience.

By age 6, 90 percent of kids stay dry all night. That’s small consolation for the children, mostly boys, who continue wetting the bed and must suffer the consequences, such as being unable to attend a sleepover party.

Usually no physical basis

Enuresis, the medical term used to describe bed-wetting, is present when a child at least 5 years old wets the bed at least twice a month. The problem is rarely caused by an underlying disorder, such as a urinary tract infection or diabetes. Mostly, bed-wetting is a matter of slow development—some kids just take longer to attain nighttime bladder control.

Stressful relapse

Sometimes a child who stopped wetting the bed for a year or more may start again in response to emotional upset. A parents’ divorce, a move or the birth of a sibling, for example, could trigger a relapse. However, it’s best to have the child’s pediatrician rule out a physical problem if bed-wetting resumes.

Seeking treatment

If bed-wetting doesn’t stop around age 6, various treatments can help

  • Behavior modification and counseling. The goal of this type of therapy is to help children and parents understand that bed-wetting is a common—and involuntary—problem that most kids outgrow. It should not be a source of shame or guilt. Parents and kids learn techniques that can help improve the problem(see box).
  • Bed-wetting alarms. A few drops of urine set off these alarms. Eventually, the urge to urinate—not the alarm—wakes the child. This method is not quick, but it is effective, curing bed-wetting in more than two-thirds of kids who try it.
  • Medication. Families often see results within one week of treatment with an antidepressant called imipramine. After the child has been dry for one month, the medication is tapered off and eventually stopped. Desmopressin, a nasal spray, is another alternative. Although medications may offer a quick fix, ask your healthcare provider about side effects.

If your child wets the bed, be supportive. Do not punish your child for accidents. Instead, enlist his or her cooperation in changing the linens and show confidence that the problem will soon be solved.