Bed-wetting children ‘prone to low self-esteem’

LOW self-esteem and reluctance to take part in sleep-overs are among the issues affecting children who are prone to bed-wetting, a survey has found.

Yet, despite the fact that bed-wetting affects an estimated 46,000 Irish children over the age of five, more than four in 10 parents are not aware that it is a treatable medical condition.

The survey, conducted on behalf of, found that

* More than two thirds of parents said their child would not stay over at a friend’s house as a result of bed-wetting.

* Four in 10 said their child did not want friends over to stay because of bed-wetting.

* Almost six in 10 had a child who wet the bed at least once a week. A similar number said their main treatment was nappies.

Clinical psychologist David Coleman, who specialises in working with children, teenagers and their families, said bed-wetting could become a distressing condition for the child if left untreated.

“Putting them in nappies, or pull-ups, and hoping that the problem will disappear is not the best way to address the issue and could lead to your child suffering from low self-esteem as a result,” Mr Coleman said.

“Lifestyle choices such as ensuring your child goes to the toilet before bed and reducing acidic or caffeine drinks before bedtime may help considerably.”

Dr Sami Ahmed, a consultant paediatrician at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork and chairman of the Irish Enuresis (bed-wetting) Advisory Group (IEAG), said approximately 15% of children over the age of five wet the bed at night.

Dr Ahmed, who holds a monthly private clinic where he sees five to 10 children suffering from bed-wetting, said they face other challenges such as difficulty at school, low self-esteem (especially in older children) and bullying.

“It can be very disruptive to the lives of parent and child and the worse thing the parent can do is not to do anything. In the past, it tended to be ignored, but now there are active ways of managing the problem and different ways of dealing with it.”

Suggested approaches are:

* “Night-lifting” a behavioural treatment technique that involves waking the child during the night. The aim is to teach the child to get up and empty the bladder several times during the night.

* Use of a moisture alarm.

* Retention control where the child is encouraged during the day to control the urge to urinate in order to strengthen the bladder muscles and improve the bladder capacity.

* Medication — among the causes for bed-wetting is a small bladder, lack of arousal from sleep or producing too much urine at night. Some children do not have enough of the natural hormone vasopressin, which concentrates urine at night to prevent the bladder from overfilling. This can be treated by prescription.

Dr Ahmed said bed-wetting also created difficulties for parents including physical and mental exhaustion, affecting work life, social life and sex life. It was also costly, estimated at €2,000 per annum in washing sheets, changing mattresses and in time lost. The results of the survey were launched yesterday as part of the ‘No More Nappies’ campaign by

* For further information, see


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