Bedwetting: Tips for Sleeping Away from Home

Use these tips from experts to help a bedwetting child stay dry when he's away from home.

From the WebMD Archives

Bedwetting: It’s more common than most kids, or their parents, think. As many as one child in five wets the bed at night -- so your child is far from alone.

Still, coping with the fear of bedwetting -- also called nocturnal enuresis -- can be hard on kids when they’re away from home. But your child doesn’t have to worry about accidents during sleepovers, at camp, or on vacation. WebMD talked to urology experts about bedwetting and got their top tips for making your child’s journey away from home a happy, dry one.

Bedwetting and Sleepovers: How Can Parents Help?

Helping kids stay dry -- at home or away -- is definitely a team effort, says Jason M. Wilson, MD, associate professor of pediatric urology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Success takes an involved child “and encouraging family in and outside the home.”

And parental communication is a vital part of that. Here’s what you can do as a parent to help your child stay dry when they’re away from home:

  • Show your child you understand: It’s easy for kids to think you blame them for bedwetting. And unfortunately, some parents do. But kids don’t wet the bed because they’re lazy, obstinate, or immature. Wetting the bed is “not a behavioral issue,” says Anthony Atala, MD, chair of urology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “It’s genetic.”
  • Usually there is a family history of bedwetting, Atala tells WebMD, with a grandparent, uncle, aunt, or a parent having dealt with the issue. It may take time (and effort) but kids do overcome bedwetting. Show your child you’re on his side.
  • Offer encouragement: Your child wants to be like other kids, enjoying sleepovers, camp, and trips away to visit family -- so encourage him, tell him he can do it. And then tell him you’ll help.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor: Your child’s pediatrician is one of the best sources of advice about bedwetting. Talk to him before your child attends a sleepover. Ask your pediatrician for suggestions and treatment options that can help your child stay dry when he's away.
  • Talk to other parents, camp counselors, etc: One way to help your child manage bedwetting during sleepovers is by talking to the other adults involved. “If your child is going to a friend’s house, make sure the other parents know about the bedwetting,” says Atala, “so that they can be a part of this process as well, and keep the confidentiality of what’s going on.”

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But won’t your child mind if you tell another grown-up? Usually they don’t, says Atala. Not all kids are the same, so be sure to ask your child if he's comfortable with other adults being let into the loop.

If he hesitates at first, remind him that an informed parent at a sleepover can be a big help. If a friend’s parents know what to expect, they won’t be mad or surprised if your child has an accident. They can also help by getting your child up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

If your child is going away to camp, you’ll want to talk to the counselors. Ask if they have a protocol in place for handling nocturnal enuresis, and what that process is. “A well-informed adult is a crucial part of your child's psychological and physical well-being,” Wilson tells WebMD.

Bedwetting and Sleepovers: 9 Tips for Staying Dry

Once you’ve shown your child you’re on his side, help him help himself with these simple tips for managing bedwetting -- and staying dry -- during sleepovers.

  • Wear disposable underpants: “My first suggestion for handling bedwetting when you’re sleeping away from home is to wear pull-ups,” Atala says, “and then to wear boxer shorts over the pull-ups. No one will actually know what’s under the boxer shorts.” And yes, Atala says girls are wearing boxers now, too.
  • Make use of medicine: Bedwetting medicines act as anti-diuretics, reducing a child’s need to pass fluids. Although they rarely cure bedwetting, medications for nocturnal enuresis can be a part of helping kids have a dry night when they’re away, Wilson says.
  • Practice first: Before heading out for a sleepover, have your child practice using the pull-ups-and-boxers combination. Also try the bedwetting medication until you get a dry night at home, so that you’ll know the proper dose of medicine your child needs when away, suggests Atala.
  • Go low-salt: Because salt causes you to retain more fluids, have your child steer clear of salty snacks like chips and pretzels the day of a sleepover, Atala says.
  • Drink less fluids: Your child can’t avoid all fluids -- and shouldn’t. Keeping liquids away from your child is harmful and can result in another problem: constipation. But, to reduce the chances of nocturnal enuresis, kids might want to avoid fluids a couple of hours before bedtime.
  • Empty the bladder before bed: To help your child reduce the chance of bedwetting when he's away from home, remind him to empty his bladder before bedtime.
  • Lie down before bedtime: Getting your body horizontal allows it to start mobilizing fluids, says Atala. So encourage your child to lie down awhile before bedtime when he's sleeping away from home. He can stretch out with a book, lie down to watch a movie, or just hang out with friends.
  • Get a good night’s rest: “Bedwetting is more common if you’re a deep sleeper,” says Atala, and “if you’re sleep-deprived you’re going to go into an even deeper sleep.” The answer is to get a good night’s rest before (and hopefully during!) a sleepover.
  • Bring extra clothes -- just in case: Taking an extra set of clothes when sleeping away from home is an obvious must, as is a large waterproof storage bag for wet clothes.

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Following tips like these can really help your child enjoy dry nights when he's sleeping away from home. Yet sometimes the excitement of the sleepover itself is all that’s necessary.

That’s because the exhilaration of camp or staying with friends can keep a child from sleeping as deeply as they do at home. The result: They wake up in the night when they have to go to the bathroom, or they wake up just enough to sense and then stop a bladder contraction. In short, they stay dry.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on February 25, 2012

Sources

SOURCES:

Anthony Atala, MD; chair of urology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Jason M. Wilson, MD; associate professor, pediatric urology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

American Academy of Pediatrics, “How Can I Keep My Child From Wetting The Bed?”

Getting to Dry: How to Help Your Child Overcome Bedwetting, Max Maizels, MD et al. The Harvard Common Press, 1999.

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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