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Bedwetting: Ruling Out Medical Problems

Next, physicians are careful to take a medical history and rule out medical causes, such as constipation or infection. Most bedwetting is what doctors call primary enuresis, meaning the child has always wet the bed. Doctors think it’s usually caused by a delay in the maturation of the mechanisms controlling the bladder.

But if bedwetting occurs after the child has been dry for a year or so, it’s termed secondary enuresis, and doctors must look more closely at the cause. Secondary enuresis could occur with psychological stress or trauma, and the child may need counseling or other treatment.

If no medical or psychological causes for bedwetting can be found, the family can move on to ways to help the child stop bedwetting.

How to Stop Bedwetting: Urinary Bed Alarms

Urinary bed alarms are generally regarded as the most effective bedwetting treatment for the long term.

Alarms are available in several different styles, but all include a moisture sensor and an alarm. One model, for instance, involves a moisture sensor worn on the underwear or pajamas, attached to an alarm box worn on the shirt. The sensor detects moisture almost immediately and sounds the alarm, alerting the child to get up and go to the bathroom.

In a report summarizing the medical evidence on bedwetting treatments such as alarms, behavioral interventions such as giving rewards, and medications, alarms were found to be the most effective. The study was published in the Journal of Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing.

In another study, published in the Journal of Paediatric Child Health, researchers found that 79% of 505 children who wore bed alarms achieved dryness within about 10 weeks (half took longer, half took less time). Six months later, 73% of those children were still dry.

While many parents try the other strategies first even before discussing bedwetting with their pediatrician, some go straight to the bed alarm.

How to Stop Bedwetting: Rewards for Dry Nights

Eleanor and her husband, Ray, moved to another common strategy -- the reward system. This can involve giving the child a small toy after a dry night or rewarding him with a trip to the park or someplace else he wants to go. Eleanor and Ray bought little prizes, such as coloring books and rubber balls, and pasted them on the wall so Michael could look at them.