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Children's Health

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Bedwetting: Answers to Parents’ 6 Top Questions

Common Questions on Bedwetting

Q: At what age should we do something about bedwetting?

If you and your entire family is OK with it, you don't necessarily have to do anything. Except wash the sheets, of course, and perhaps have your child wear disposable underwear. About 15% of bedwetters get better, or outgrow it, every year without any treatment. By age 18, only 1% to 2% still wet the bed.

But if you, or more importantly, your child, is so upset by this that it is disrupting your family, then talk about treatments with your pediatrician.

The best time to do this is when your child says he wants to deal with it. When the child gets sick of it, says he feels like a baby, or is embarrassed because he can't go to friends' houses for sleepovers, this is a good time to talk to your doctor about remedies.

Q: What bedwetting product or treatment works best?

There aren't a lot of great studies comparing treatments. But it's pretty clear that what works best are the urinary alarms. In a published review, researchers compared bed alarms with behavioral interventions and medications. They concluded that bed alarms are the most effective.

Many models of alarms are available, but all include a moisture sensor that you put in your child’s underpants that sounds an alarm when it detects urine. Once the alarms train the sleeping brain to inhibit the bladder contractions -- and prevent the urine from being released -- most kids stay dry. Better still, they remain dry even after the alarm is discontinued.

The downside of alarms? They take a while to work -- usually months. They require participation by the parents, who may have to get up with their child and take him to the bathroom when the alarm goes off. It requires a lot of commitment.

Another strategy is to wake your child two or three hours after he has gone to bed, and perhaps right before you go to bed, and have him pee. It has some effectiveness. You might also have your child wear disposable underwear until he or she outgrows bedwetting.

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