Most children gain bladder control over time without any treatment. Bed-wetting that continues past the age that most children have nighttime bladder control-typically at 5 or 6 years of age-also will usually stop over time without treatment. If not, home treatment may be all that is needed to help a child stop wetting the bed. For more information, see the Home Treatment section of this topic.
If home treatment is unsuccessful, if the child and parents need assistance, or if the bed-wetting may be caused by a medical condition, medical treatment may be helpful. Medical treatment may help your child wet the bed less often or help him or her wake up to use the toilet more often.
Treatment for bed-wetting is based on the:
- Child's age. Some treatments work better than others for children of a specific age group.
- Child's and parents' attitudes about the bed-wetting. If gaining bladder control is seen as a normal process, it is usually easier for the child to stop bed-wetting.
- Home situation. If the child shares a bedroom with other children, certain techniques to arouse the child, such as some moisture alarms, may not be practical.
Treatment for bed-wetting may include:
- Motivational therapy. This method involves parents encouraging and reinforcing a child's sense of control over bed-wetting.
- Moisture alarms, which detect wetness in the child's underpants during sleep and sound an alarm to wake the child.
- Desmopressin and tricyclic antidepressants. These medicines increase the amount of urine that the bladder can hold or decrease the amount of urine released by the kidneys.
Treatment may be helpful if bed-wetting seems to be affecting your child's self-esteem or affecting how your child is doing with schoolwork or getting along with his or her peers.
The best solution may be a combination of treatments. Below are some suggestions for treatment options according to the age of your child.
- Ages 5 to 8: Help your child understand that wetting the bed is a normal part of growing up. Encouragement and praise may be all that is needed to help your child wake up before wetting. Praise and reward your child for the steps he or she takes to have dry nights. And have your child take an active role in cleaning up after wetting.
- Ages 8 to 11: If your child still wets the bed, a moisture alarm may be a successful treatment option. Also, a medicine such as desmopressin can be helpful for occasional overnight events such as camp or sleepovers.
- Ages 12 and older: There can be significant emotional effects if bed-wetting persists at this age, so treatment can be more aggressive. If consistent use of moisture alarms does not work, the doctor may suggest medicine and/or counseling.
For more information, see:
What about treatment for daytime wetting?
Accidental daytime wetting may be a normal part of a child's development, or it may point to a medical condition. Talk to your child's doctor if your child has daytime wetting.
What to think about
Treatment for bed-wetting is usually not a cure. The goal is to reduce the number of times the child wets the bed and to manage the wetting until it goes away on its own.
Some children who finish a treatment and have dry nights for a while will start to wet the bed again. Repeating treatment, especially with a moisture alarm, usually helps bring back dry nights.
Counseling (psychotherapy) may be helpful for the child who has secondary enuresis or for bed-wetting that is caused by emotional stress. Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained counselor. The counselor helps the child identify and deal with the emotional stress that may be causing him or her to have accidental wettings. The goal is to reduce or help manage the stress or to prevent stress from occurring.