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Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(4):498

See related article on enuresis.

What is enuresis and who gets it?

Enuresis (say: EN-yur-EE-sis) is bed-wetting in a child five years or older. Most children stop wetting the bed before five years of age. More boys than girls have enuresis. It also tends to run in families.

What causes enuresis?

Enuresis happens when your child doesn't wake up when his or her bladder is full. There is no obvious cause for enuresis in most children, but several factors make it more likely. For example, some children don't wake up easily from a deep sleep or their bodies produce more urine than normal.

In children who usually don't wet the bed, enuresis may be caused by a traumatic event (for example, divorce or bullying) or a medical problem.

Most children with enuresis are healthy. But, you should tell the doctor if your child has been wetting during the day, painful urination, or stomach or genital pain. You should also tell the doctor if bed-wetting happens after a long period of no bed-wetting.

How is enuresis treated?

Most children outgrow it and don't need treatment. If bed-wetting upsets your child or if it happens often, medicine or an alarm that awakens your child if the bed is wet may help.

You can help your child by doing the following:

  • Avoid giving your child liquids or anything with caffeine before bedtime.

  • Make sure your child goes to the bathroom before bed.

  • Avoid punishing your child for bed-wetting. Instead, reward your child for not wetting the bed (for example, use stickers or stars as encouragement).

  • Have your child help change and wash the sheets after bed-wetting so that your child is involved in his or her own care.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Family Physicians

Canadian Paediatric Society

  • Web site:

U.K. National Health Service

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