What is bed-wetting?
Bed-wetting (also called nocturnal enuresis) is when the bladder empties while a child is asleep. This can happen every so often, or every night.
Bed-wetting is common. About one in every five children in Australia wets the bed. Bed-wetting can run in families and is more common in boys than girls before the age of nine years. It can be upsetting for the child and stressful for the whole family. The good news is that you can get help.
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What causes bed-wetting?
Wetting the bed is caused by a mix of three things:
Children who wet the bed are not lazy or being naughty. Some illnesses are linked with bed-wetting, but most children who wet the bed do not have major health problems.
Day-time control of the bladder comes before night-time dryness. Most children are dry through the day by the age of three years and at night by school age. However, this can vary, and children may have accidents every so often, both day and night, up until they are seven or eight years of age.
When should you seek help for bed-wetting?
It is best to seek help from a health professional with special training in children’s bladder problems, such as a doctor, physiotherapist or continence nurse advisor. They can help children with their bed-wetting from when the child is about six years of age. Before this time it can sometimes be hard to get the child to be helpful. However, in some cases it might be wise to seek help sooner, such as when:
Can bladder control through the day be a problem?
Some children who wet the bed at night also have problems with how their bladder works through the day. They may go to the toilet too few or too many times, need to rush to the toilet in a hurry, have trouble emptying out all the urine or have bowel problems. Unless the child has wet underwear, families often do not know about these other bladder and bowel control problems. New day-time wetting by a child who is toilet trained should be discussed with a doctor.
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What can be done about bed-wetting?
Many children do stop wetting in their own time with no help. Most often, if wetting is still very frequent after the age of eight or nine years, the problem does not get better by itself. There are many ways to treat bed-wetting. A health professional will begin by checking the child to make sure there are no physical causes and to find out how their bladder works through the day. Then, there are a few ways to treat bed-wetting that are most often used:
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What can parents do?
There are some things which do NOT help:
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Qualified nurses are available if you call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66* (Monday to Friday, between 8.00am to 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time) for free:
If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English you can access the Helpline through the free Telephone Interpreter Service on 13 14 50. The phone will be answered in English, so please name the language you speak and wait on the phone. You will be connected to an interpreter who speaks your language. Tell the interpreter you wish to call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66. Wait on the phone to be connected and the interpreter will assist you to speak with a continence nurse advisor. All calls are confidential.
* Calls from mobile telephones are charged at applicable rates.
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