January 26, 2021 4 min read

If your child is dealing with incontinence, here are some incontinence facts to give you insight, awareness, and strategies for coping. In this post, we cover everything you need to know about incontinence in children, and in a future post, we’ll discuss incontinence in adults.

It’s normal for children under the age of 3 not to have full control of their bladders. As they get older, children get better control, but around one in five children will have incontinence up until around the ages 5 or 6. Another one in ten children will still have incontinence issues as they reach the age of 7. Most of the time, however, incontinence in children resolves itself over time.

When children who are old enough to control their bladders have either daytime or nighttime incontinence, it’s known as enuresis. It’s more common for boys to experience nighttime enuresis, commonly called bedwetting, whereas it’s more common for girls to experience daytime enuresis. Generally, however, girls get control of their bladders sooner than boys do. Boys, then, are diagnosed with enuresis later than girls.

If your son is having trouble with incontinence past the age of 6, this is a good time to speak with his doctor. If your daughter, on the other hand, experiences wetting past age 5, then this is when she might be diagnosed with enuresis.


infant playing

What are the types of incontinence in children?

There are four designations for incontinence in children. As you’ll see, having one form does not rule out having other forms of incontinence. In fact, every child will have overlapping types of incontinence.

  • Daytime or diurnal enuresis is the medical term for wetting during the day. As mentioned before, it is more common for girls to have daytime enuresis than it is for boys.
  • Nocturnal or nighttime enuresis is the term for bedwetting, or wetting during the night. This is the most common form of incontinence in children.
  • Primary enuresis can be either daytime or nighttime incontinence, and is the term used to describe children who have not fully mastered potty training.
  • Secondary enuresis is the term used for children who have been dry for at least six months and then develop incontinence after that period.

children lounging on the bed


What causes incontinence in children?

Here are some common causes of incontinence in children. John Hopkins Medicine has created a useful guide that provides additional information.


Nighttime incontinence is very common in children and may be caused by:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Certain genes, it may be hereditary
  • Constipation that puts pressure on the bladder
  • Diabetes
  • Not enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in the body during sleep
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Overactive bladder
  • Slower physical development
  • Small bladder
  • Structural problems in the urinary tract
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Very deep sleep

Daytime incontinence may be caused by:

  • Anxiety
  • Caffeine
  • Constipation that puts pressure on the bladder
  • Not going to the bathroom often enough
  • Not urinating enough when going
  • Overactive bladder
  • Small bladder
  • Structural problems in the urinary tract
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Secondary enuresis is generally caused by anxiety or stress. Secondary enuresis accounts for around 25% of all cases in children.

 

mother and child playing

What is the best way to treat and manage incontinence in children?

Remember that incontinence is not your child’s fault. While it can be frustrating, do not scold or blame the child. Be patient with them, they don’t have control over their enuresis. And remember, this is normal and there are ways to manage it.

If your child is over the age of 5, for girls, or 6, for boys, and they regularly experience incontinence, bring them to see their doctor. This is to rule out any underlying medical conditions that might be present.


Most of the time, children will outgrow incontinence, but there are some things you can do to manage it in the meantime:


  • Limit or changing fluid intake. You may give your child less fluid as bedtime approaches. Remember that your child still needs to get the regular amount of water, so be sure to modify when they are drinking, not how much.
  • Avoid caffeine.Children might be getting caffeine from sodas, teas, coffee drinks, or chocolate. Limiting caffeine can help decrease wetting.
  • Night waking or a bedwetting alarm.You might set yourself an alarm to wake your child and bring them to the bathroom once during the night, or use a bedwetting alarm to trigger your child to wake up if and when bedwetting happens.
  • Medications. Medications can be used to treat or limit incontinence, but you should speak to your child’s doctor. Medication is not the best option for every child.
  • Counselling. If your child is experiencing stress, anxiety, or ADHD, seeking counselling is important and may also prevent or limit bedwetting.
  • Bedwetting mat. Protect your child’s mattress and sheets with a bedwetting mat to make cleanup easier to manage. PeapodMats are our preferred bedwetting mat for children.

 


We understand that it can feel like your child has something wrong with them if they experience wetting past a certain age, which is why we’ve outlined these incontinence facts for you. More often than not, it’s only a matter of time before your child outgrows their incontinence. Until then, make sure they're receiving the support and treatment they need, whether it’s through changes in the routine, counselling, or even something as simple and effective as a mattress pad to keep them dry while they sleep.


bedwetting comic


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