Ideally, a child should stop wetting the bed by ages 6-7. However, about 10% of children over the age of 7 are still learning how to control their bladder, and the problem is 2-3 times more common in boys than in girls.
For most kids, this is not a serious health issue, and they will usually outgrow it with time. But it can still be upsetting and embarrassing for both kids and their parents, and it may cause your child to avoid attending sleepovers or summer camp.
What causes bedwetting?
It’s not quite clear exactly what causes bedwetting, but some experts believe that it may occur due to developmental delays in the kidney, bladder, or brain. Factors that increase the risk of bedwetting include:
- Genetics. If one or both parents has a history of bedwetting, their child may have the same problem.
- Stress. During childhood, life changes such as relocation, parental separation, or loss of a parent can create stress that leads to bedwetting.
- Obstructive sleep apnea. Children who snore at night and get drowsy during the day may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Though rare, OSA has been associated with bedwetting because it can cause a change in brain chemical balances.
- Chronic constipation. Since the bowel and bladder are next to each other, constipation can cause the bowel to push on the bladder and contribute to nighttime bedwetting.
- Urinary tract infection. In addition to bedwetting, if a child is also suffering from symptoms such as pain when peeing or the need to pee frequently, they may have a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI can make it difficult for a child to control their bladder.
- Hormonal problems. Some kids don't produce enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which helps control the amount of urine production. Low ADH levels can be a cause of bedwetting in children.
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Bedwetting is common in children with ADHD.
- Diabetes. Children with diabetes may also have trouble controlling their bladder, and other signs may include increased frequency of urination, thirst, fatigue, and weight loss.
- Structural problems in the spinal cord. Though very rare, spinal cord problems may contribute to bedwetting.
When to see a doctor about bedwetting
While most children will outgrow a tendency to wet the bed, persistent bedwetting may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.
You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if your child:
- Still wets the bed after age 7
- Suddenly starts to wet the bed again after months of having been fine
- Experiences additional signs and symptoms such as:
Mayo Clinic. Bed-wetting. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed-wetting/symptoms-causes/syc-20366685
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