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Bedwetting: treating it



Sometimes, bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) stops on its own without the need for treatment.

Children under five

Treatment for bedwetting is not recommended for children under five. This is because treatment may be too stressful for children who are below this age.

Children between aged 5-7

For children between the ages of five and seven, treatment for bedwetting is not usually recommended unless:

  • It is having a significant impact on them or their family
  • It is felt that they are mature enough to be able to cope with it

Children older than seven

For children who older than seven, treatment for bedwetting may be recommended if it is having a significant impact on them, or their family.

The decision to go ahead with treatment should be made jointly by the child’s parents (or carers) and the child after considering:

  • How often the bedwetting occurs
  • How the child and parents are coping with the problem
  • Whether the child is being punished, bullied or teased due to their bedwetting

Bedwetting: recommended treatments

A enuresis adviser will be able to recommend specific treatments for bedwetting. The type of treatment that the enuresis adviser recommends will depend on the child's situation, such as their age and previous bedwetting history, as well as any underlying conditions that may be causing it.

Enuresis alarms

Enuresis alarms are considered to be the best form of long-term treatment for bedwetting. This is usually preferred to the use of a medication called desmopressin.

An enuresis alarm consists of a tiny sensor and an alarm. The sensor is attached to the child’s underwear and the alarm is worn on the pyjamas. If the sensor starts to get wet, it sets off the alarm. Vibrating alarms are also available. Studies have shown that 66% of children who used an enuresis alarm achieved 14 consecutive dry nights, compared with 4% of children who did not use one.

About 50% of children who used an enuresis alarm experienced a relapse (reoccurrence) after treatment stopped, compared with almost all children who did not use one.

Desmopressin

Desmopressin is sometimes prescribed to treat bedwetting. It is usually taken orally (in tablet form) and is only recommended as a short term treatment.

In certain situations, taking desmopressin is a more practical form of treating bedwetting than using an enuresis alarm. A short course of desmopressin may be prescribed for a child if they need to spend some nights away from home, for example if they are going on holiday abroad or on a school trip.

Desmopressin works by reducing the amount of urine that your child produces and needs to pass at night. If the child is prescribed desmopressin, it is important that they follow the recommended amount of fluid intake in order to avoid becoming overloaded with fluid.

Other medications

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine, are not recommended, because they can cause very serious side effects.
  • Oxybutynin is also not recommended, because it has been found to be ineffective in treating bedwetting that is not caused by bladder instability.
  • If bedwetting is the result of bladder instability, the child should be referred to a specialist for assessment before any form of treatment is started