The facts

Did you know? 

  • Incontinence can have a negative impact on a child’s quality of life1 and increase absenteeism.
  • Children who soil are significantly more likely to report being victims or perpetrators of overt bullying behaviours.3 
  • Many children influenced by negative perceptions of school toilets have adopted unhealthy toilet habits during school time.
  • If a child is not allowed to go to the toilet when they have the urge they could potentially wet or soil their pants. 
  • The psychological impact of wetting or soiling should not be underestimated. 
  • Adequate toileting facilities and good hand washing practices can help to reduce the outbreaks of infectious diseases5 including gastroenteritis, colds and influenza. 

Why is it when you ask a child to wait for a break to use the toilet, when they return from the break they suddenly need to go to the toilet again? 

  • When the bladder is filling up with urine, a person gets a desire to void, which they can consciously suppress. 
  • If a child suppresses the urge to void because he/she is not allowed to go to the toilet, they may forget that they needed to go until they next get the urge, which may be when they return to the classroom. This time the urge to void becomes stronger, may even be painful and it becomes more difficult to hold on. 
  • If a child is not allowed to go to the toilet when they need to, they may end up wetting their pants. This can be embarrassing and humiliating for the child. 

Did you know that restricting fluids can have a negative impact on a child’s overall health and wellbeing? 

  • A child’s cognitive performance has been shown to improve by having a drink of water.
  • Research has shown that free access to water 
  • in the classroom is not associated with children needing to visit the toilet more frequently during class time and it also decreases flavoured drink consumption.7 
  • If a child restricts their fluid intake at school, they may then drink an excessive amount when they get home from school, which has the potential to lead to night-time wetting. 
  • Allowing children to drink water throughout the day is not only beneficial for their overall health and wellbeing but can also promote healthy bladder and bowel habits for life. 

Why is it important to let children go to the toilet if they need to? 

  • It is important to remember that the kidneys are always making urine, so the bladder is always filling up. We can only suppress the urge to void for a certain amount of time until the urine has to come out – whether we are on the toilet or not. 
  • If children ignore the urge to defecate or are not allowed to leave the classroom to go, this may lead to constipation and faecal soiling. 
  • By ignoring the need to go to the toilet, the faeces stays in the bowel for a longer period and more water is absorbed from the faeces, making it harder and drier, and more difficult to pass. This leads to constipation. 
  • If a child becomes severely constipated the bowel can over distend (stretch) and liquid faeces can escape around the hard faeces, resulting in faecal soiling. This can happen without the child being aware of it. Often the child will not be able to smell themselves. 
  • A child with faecal soiling or day-time wetting needs to be referred to a health professional as it is a medical condition. 

What can cause a child to have bladder or bowel problems? 

There are a range of medical conditions that can lead a child to having bladder and bowel problems, such as diabetes, spina bifida, coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease, just to name a few. 

References

  • 1. Edmonds, CJ and Jeffes, B 2009, ‘Does having a drink help you think? 6-7 year old children show improvements in cognitive performance from baseline to test after having a drink of water’, Appetite, vol. 53, pp. 469-472. 
  • 2. Joinson, C, Herron, J, Butler, U, von Gontard, A,& The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Study Team 2006. 'Psychological Differences Between Children With and Without Soiling Problems', Pediatrics Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, vol.117, 1575-1584. 
  • 3. Joinson, C, Herron, J, von Gontard, A & ALSPAC Study Team 2006, ‘Psychological Problems in Children With Daytime Wetting’, Pediatrics, vol. 118, no.5, pp. 1985-1993. 
  • 4. Lundbald, B, Hellstrom, AL & Berg, M 2010, ‘Children’s experiences of attitudes and rules for going to the toilet in school’, Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, vol. 24, pp. 219-223. 
  • 5. Vernon, S, Lundblad, B & Hellstrom, A 2003, ‘Children’s experiences of school toilets present a risk to their physical and psychological habits’, Child: care, health and development, vol. 29, no.1, pp. 47-53. 
  • 6. Edmonds, CJ and Jeffes, B 2009, ‘Does having a drink help you think? 6-7 year old children show improvements in cognitive performance from baseline to test after having a drink of water’, Appetite, vol. 53, pp. 469-472. 
  • 7. Joinson, C, Heron, J, von Gontard, A, Butler, U, Golding, J & Emond, A 2008, ‘Early Childhood Risk Factors Assoicated with Daytime Wetting and Soiling in School-age Children’, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, vol. 33, no.7, pp. 739-750.  
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Last Updated: Mon 20, Jul 2020
Last Reviewed: Tue 17, Mar 2020