Asked by Megan, Pennsylvania
What is the best age to begin using a bed-wetting alarm?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Bed-wetting alarms tend to work best when used for children who are at least 5 to 7. Around this age, children are more likely to have the development and maturity to be able to respond to the alarm, go to the bathroom and return to bed.
They also stand a better chance of being conditioned by the alarm system. It is helpful, too, if the child is motivated to stay dry at night and already has some dry nights mixed in with the wet ones.
Most children are able to remain dry all night after the age of 5. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, about 15 percent of all 5-year-olds, 5 percent of 10-year-olds and 1 percent of 18-year olds continue to have episodes of nighttime wetting.
Bed-wetting is twice as common in boys as in girls and tends to run in families.
In most cases, there is no medical or emotional problem causing the bed-wetting. However, it is a good idea to consult with your child's pediatrician to be sure.
It is thought that children who continue wetting the bed after age 5 may be such sound sleepers that they don't notice the urge to urinate, may make more urine at night than other children or may have a bladder that does not hold as much urine as one might expect for that age.
Bed-wetting typically resolves itself as children get older, even without any type of intervention.
The theory behind using an alarm, which detects moisture in the child's clothing or bedding and sets off a sound, light or vibration, is that it trains children eventually to wake up to use the bathroom before the alarm even goes off. Alarms are successful in stopping bed-wetting about 2/3 of the time and generally take a few weeks or months to work.
For a temporary remedy, such as if a child would like to attend a sleepover or overnight camp, disposable nighttime pants for older kids may be useful. If needed, you can put one inside a child's sleeping bag for discreet changing at bedtime.
Some resources that readers may find helpful include:
National Kidney Foundation: Directions for your child when using a bedwetting alarm
American Academcy of Pediatrics: Advice on toilet training
National Kidney Foundation: When bedwetting becomes a problem; a guide for patients and their families
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What you need to know about your child's bedwetting
Kidshealth.org: Health information written for kids
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