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Bedwetting is a natural part of growing up, but it can be upsetting for children and parents alike. It’s helpful to know how and when to act on the problem.

Dr. Patricio Gargollo, pediatric urologist at Texas Children’s Hospital

Bedwetting and who it affects

Nocturnal enuresis, which is also known as bedwetting, is a common condition that occurs when a sleeping child is unable to hold and control his bladder at night. Every child is different, but nighttime incontinence becomes most concerning for parents of children who are at an age where they should be able to control their bladders, which is usually by age 6 or 7.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bedwetting affects nearly 20 percent of all 5-year-olds, 10 percent of 6-year-olds and 3 percent of 12-year-olds. Bedwetting is an issue that affects both genders, but boys tend to suffer from the problem more than girls. It almost always occurs among those children who are very heavy sleepers. Additionally, the condition often occurs in children whose parents or other relatives have also suffered from bedwetting when they were young.

At Texas Children’s Hospital, we see hundreds of kids ranging in age between 6 and 18 years who suffer from issues related to bedwetting. Parents don’t need to worry about this issue, as most of the time it is considered a non-dangerous problem that children typically outgrow.

Coping with bedwetting

Bedwetting usually goes away on its own, but until it does, it can be a humiliating time for your child. It’s important parents not get upset with their child after an accident occurs, because that’s exactly what it is—an accident. The child is not being lazy or rebellious by wetting the bed. A more medical explanation is that the child’s brain is not getting the signal from his bladder to wake up. In time, once his nervous system matures, the issue will typically resolve itself. But until then, parents should reassure their children that they are not alone and that thousands of kids go through similar experiences—it’s all part of growing up.

When to call a doctor

Parents should be concerned if the condition hinders the child from excelling socially. When it keeps your child from experiencing normal childhood activities such as sleepovers and overnight camps, then it’s time to address the issue and seek medical help. Parents should also be concerned if their child was once completely continent and then suddenly begins wetting the bed or having daytime accidents. Lastly, parents may consider medical advice if their child remains incontinent once he or she has reached 6 or 7 years old.

If you have a growing concern about your child’s battle with enuresis, talk to his or her pediatrician or book an appointment with a pediatric urologist. Specific treatment for enuresis will be determined by your child’s provider based on age, overall health and medical history.

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