Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
(603) 742-5252
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
Site Search

Female urinary tract
Female urinary tract

Male urinary tract
Male urinary tract


Bed wetting is nighttime urinary incontinence in children over age 5 or 6.

Alternative Names:



Bed wetting is divided into two categories. Primary nocturnal (nighttime) urinary incontinence is when a child has never achieved full bladder control (never been fully toilet trained). Secondary nocturnal urinary incontinence is when a child starts bed wetting again after having achieved bladder control.

Most children who haven't achieved bladder control have at least one parent or first degree relative who also had a problem with bed wetting . Knowing this often helps the child feel less stressed about the situation.

Roughly 20% of children still wet their beds at age 5, only 5% do so by age 10, and 2% by age 15. Only 1 out of 100 children who wet their bed continues to have a problem in adulthood.

Common Causes:

Primary bed wetting is usually simply due to a delay in the maturation of the part of the nervous system that controls bladder function. Secondary bed wetting may be due to either psychological problems or medical disorders, such as a urinary tract infection , urinary tract abnormalities, or diabetes .

Home Care:

Do not worry about bed wetting in children before the age of 6, unless they were previously well toilet trained and the bed wetting is now a new problem.

Do not punish a child who wets. Bed wetting is NOT caused by laziness or rebelliousness. Shaming a child for wetting the bed can lead to poor self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth.

Reassure, encourage, and express confidence in the child. You can also have your child take an active part in cleaning up from the bed wetting (such as helping to strip the bed and put the sheets in the laundry).

Not giving drinks at bedtime may be helpful in some children because it decreases the volume of urine in the bladder, but this does not prevent the problem completely. Avoiding caffeine-containing drinks can also help decrease the amount of urine in the bladder (caffeine increases urine production).

See your health care provider to consider the use of alarm systems (such as Wet-stop or Enuretone), or drugs like DDAVP nasal spray or pills. The latter stops bed wetting in 60 - 75% of children while taking the drug, but is not a permanent cure (once the medication is stopped, the bed wetting tends to come back).

Call your health care provider if:

Call your doctor if there have been repeated episodes of bed wetting after the age of 6, if your child complains that it hurts to urinate, if your child has been drinking excessive amounts of fluids, or if your child has been exhibiting strange behavioral changes (becoming uncharacteristically withdrawn or shy, or suddenly behaving in a sexually suggestive manner).

What to expect at your health care provider's office:

A medical history will be obtained from the patient and the patient's parents (if the patient is a child).

Medical history questions documenting the bed wetting in detail may include:

  • Time pattern
    • When did bed wetting begin?
    • How often does bed wetting occur?
    • Have there ever been "dry" periods before?
  • Quality
    • How often is daytime urination?
    • Is control of urine while awake a problem?
    • Does bed wetting cause awakening?
    • How is the bed wetting treated within the family?
    • Is the bed wetting punished?
    • Are other family members aware of the problem?
    • Does the bed wetting cause shame?
  • Aggravating factors
    • What makes the problem worse?
    • Does the bed wetting increase in times of stress ?
    • Is there a urinary tract infection present?
    • Do beverages consumed contain caffeine or alcohol?
  • Relieving factors
    • Is there anything that reduces the problem?
  • Other
    • What other symptoms are also present?
      • fever
      • abdominal pain
      • back pain
      • pain or burning when urinating
    • What medications are being taken?
    • Have other family members had this problem?
    • Is there a family history of diabetes?
    • Is bowel control a problem?
    • Can the child feel the need to urinate?
    • What methods of prevention have been tried?
      • rewards
      • diapers
      • alarm systems
      • periodic waking
      • restricting fluids

A complete examination will be performed, with emphasis on the abdomen, rectum, and the urinary opening. The health care provider will discuss the options available for treatment.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:

After seeing your health care provider:

If a diagnosis was made by your health care provider related to bed wetting, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.

Review Date: 2/27/2008
Reviewed By: Rachel A. Lewis, MD, FAAP, Columbia University Pediatric Faculty Practice, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Find What You Need

About Us
Social Media Agreement
Joint Notice
Web Privacy Policy
WDH Staff Portal

Centers & Services

Cancer Center
Cardiovascular Care
Joint Replacement
Women & Children's
Physician Offices
Other Services

Conditions & Treatments

Health Information
Ebola Information

Support Services

Support Groups
Dental Center
Social Work
Food & Nutrition
Integrative Wellness
Spiritual Care
Concerns & Grievances
Homecare and Hospice

For Patients

Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Interpreter Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Record Request
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials

For Healthcare Professionals

Work and Life
Financial Well-Being
Career and Growth

The Wentworth-Douglass Health System includes:



Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100