Bedwetting at six years old
Wendi Morfitt, MD is a board-certified pediatric physician on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: My six-year-old son still wets the bed. Should I be concerned?
Answer: It is normal for many children to wet the bed at this age and even older. Bed wetting occurs in ten to 15 percent of kids between the age of five and seven. The key question is whether he has always wet the bed (primary enuresis) or whether he has been dry and is now wetting once again (secondary enuresis).
There are two main causes for primary enuresis. The most common reason is that a child has not reached the developmental stage at which the brain has learned how to tell the body to hold in urine while he is sleeping. Children develop this ability at different ages. Children who are heavy sleepers also seem to be more likely to wet the bed. Often there is a family history of bed wetting.
Another less common reason is that some children have small bladders and are unable to store a full night’s urine until morning.
In both instances, the wetting is involuntary and not something for which child should be reprimanded. However, it is reasonable to expect an older child to help replace sheets and change into dry clothing in the morning. Many children are willing to wear pull-ups or a large diaper to bed to avoid waking in a wet bed.
A child that used to be dry at night and is now wetting should be evaluated by a doctor. It may be normal but it could be caused by a medical problem or some type of external stressor. If both nighttime and daytime wetting is present, a bladder problem may be the cause and this also warrants a medical evaluation.
After age seven, treatment is available with bedwetting alarms or medication. The alarms are worn at night and beep or vibrate to wake the child when the underwear starts to get wet. They have a 75 percent success rate with children older than seven. Medication is also available that stops urine production at night. This works best for special occasions such as sleepovers or camp. It is sometimes used long term but often the bed wetting returns once the medication is stopped.
If your child has a bed-wetting problem, consult your pediatrician to see if it is normal or if there is a problem that needs attention.