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Bed Wetting in Older Children

By Foziya Khan ; Updated June 13, 2017

Bed wetting not only affects infants who have recently undergone potty training but older children and teens as well. While most children have learned to control their bladder by the time they are aged 5 or 6, others may take longer. Bed wetting may be an embarrassing problem for your child, who may feel ashamed and anxious. Parents need to ensure that they both reassuring and supportive.


Bed wetting is also referred to as primary enuresis and affects 5 to 7 million children in the United States. Bed wetting can be defined as a child aged 5 or above who has been consistently wetting his bed at least once or twice per week over the last three months. Bed wetting is more common in boys than girls, and 20 percent of children aged between 2 and 12 wet their beds. Over 70 percent of children who wet their beds will stop by the time they are 11 years old.


Bed wetting is usually caused by a number of contributing factors. Genetics plays a part; scientists have identified a site on chromosome 13 responsible for enuresis, so if both parents were bed wetters then the probability of the child having enuresis is 80 percent.

Another cause is having an immature bladder that is incapable of holding a large volume of urine. Sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea or deep sleep can prevent children from getting up to urinate.

Bed wetting can also result from a lower production of the antidiuretic hormone, which slows down the production of urine. The body produces more of this hormone at night. Anxiety or stress such as starting a new school, the birth of a sibling or exams can also lead to enuresis.

Consult a Doctor

Usually there is no need to consult a doctor, as most children will gain control of their bladder as they get older. However, if you are concerned and your child is 7 or older, then talk to your child's pediatrician. Your child's pediatrician will evaluate your child’s bed wetting history and determine if there is an underlying condition for the enuresis like diabetes or infections such as a urinary tract infection.


Behavioral modifications may take longer to produce results but are more effective in the long run and safer than taking drugs. Remind your child to urinate before she goes to bed and when she gets up in the morning; wake your child at frequent intervals during the night to go to the bathroom. Limit carbonated and caffeinated drinks two hours before bedtime.

Try bladder conditioning, which will help strengthen the sphincter muscle and gradually increase how much urine the bladder can hold. To do this, ask your child to hold his urine in when he feels the need to urinate. Start by holding urine for a few minutes, then extend the time period. Moisture alarms are often used to awaken a child; the device is attached to a child’s pajamas and alerts your child when it senses moisture.


Your child’s pediatrician may prescribe either Imipramine or Desmopressin acetate to help with your child’s bed wetting. Imipramine is an antidepressant that affects both the brain and bladder by causing the smooth muscle to relax. Desmopressin acetate is a synthetic form of antidiuretic hormone and is available in the form of a pill, nasal spray or nasal drops. It acts by slowing down the production of urine.

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