Wed 29, May 2019
Daytime accidents are a significant issue, with one in five primary school-age children wetting themselves during the day (Sureshkumar et. al 2000) and one in 25-40 experiencing faecal incontinence (Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital).
Ms Fyfield said that one of the major reasons children wet or soil themselves during the day was because they “held on” to their bladders or bowels for longer than they should.
“It may be because the school toilets are smelly, wet or unwelcoming, or because the child forgets to go during play time, and then isn’t allowed during class time,” she said.
WHY SHOULDN’T WE ‘HOLD ON’ TO OUR BLADDERS?
A full bladder puts a lot more weight and pressure on the urinary sphincter (the ring of muscle we relax to urinate), making accidents more likely, Ms Fyfield said.
“In addition, if the bladder overfills often enough, the bladder – essentially a balloon-shaped muscle – can lose its elasticity and ability to contract effectively and expel the urine.”
WHY SHOULDN’T WE ‘HOLD ON’ TO OUR BOWEL MOTIONS?
While most people understand that holding onto their bowel motions causes constipation, many are unaware that constipation could risk faecal incontinence (S R Ali 2011) as well as urinary incontinence, Ms Fyfied said.
“Chronic constipation can cause urinary leakage because of the full bowel taking up space in the abdomen and pressing on the bladder. But it can also lead to faecal leakage - often mistaken for diarrhoea, but, in fact, the opposite - constipation with overflow.”
This, she said, happens when the semi-liquid faeces higher up in the colon forces its way past the solid blockage without the person being aware.
HOW CAN SCHOOLS HELP?
Good habits start early, and to help children get on the right track, the Continence Foundation of Australia has developed a child-friendly Toilet Tactics kit for schools.
Toilet Tactics teaches children how to adopt lifelong healthy bowel and bladder habits, and illuminates teachers and parents about the importance of encouraging and reinforcing good practices early.
Children learn about diet, exercise, and how their bladder and bowel work and the importance of responding to the body’s signals.
Just as importantly, Toilet Tactics teaches teachers how to recognise the signs a child may be experiencing bladder or bowel control issues, and gives them strategies to handle these situations sensitively and effectively.
So far more than 2000 Australian schools have registered for Toilet Tactics. Find out if your child’s school is registered by asking your child’s teacher or your school welfare officer.
WHERE CAN PARENTS LEARN MORE?
Contact the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66), where continence health advisors can offer advice, information, resources and the contact details of the nearest children’s continence service.