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Nine-Year-Old Bed Wetter

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: What can you do for a child that still bed wets at age nine?

A: Bed wetting is a common problem that affects about five percent of nine year olds. It's more common in boys than girls. Since you said your child "still" wets the bed, I'm assuming that he's never had a significant period of time when he was dry at night. Children who used to be dry at night and suddenly start wetting need to be seen by their physician before embarking on any specific treatments.

Most children who bedwet have no underlying physical abnormality. They are also not doing it because they are "lazy" or uncooperative. It is important that the first step in managing the bedwetting be the removal of any guilt or punishment toward the child. It is useful at this age, however, to let him start taking responsibility for cleaning up after himself when he does wet. You can also help by making sure he has a plastic cover for the mattress, and a clean supply of pajamas to change into.

Bedwetting alarms tend to work well for children this age, particularly if the child is motivated. The alarm senses the wetness from the urine and sets off a buzzer that wakes the child up, and over time, conditions him to go to the bathroom before his bladder empties. The alarms cost about 70 dollars and are available from medical supply companies and some drugstores. There are some drugs that are available for bedwetting, but I would not recommend them in a child this age, as they can have significant side effects.

Most children outgrow their bedwetting over time, and I generally reserve medication for adolescents who are still wetting.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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