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Bedwetting in Children

Bedwetting, or enuresis, is a problem all too common to parents. At the age of two, 50 percent of children wet the bed at night; by age four the figure drops to 1 0 to 15 percent. Less than 5 percent still wet at age 12. Boys are more troubled with bedwetting than girls, and children who were underweight at birth more than those with normal birth weights.

Bedwetting in girls predisposes to urinary tract infection; the more frequently they wet the bed the more likely they are to develop a urinary tract infection.

Most bedwetters have a small bladder capacity, and this small capacity makes it difficult for them to go through the night without voiding. Bedwetters pass urine frequently during the day. The bladder is generally normal anatomically; the small size is because the bladder is in spasm, and when the cause of spasm is removed the bladder enlarges.


  • There is much evidence that the primary cause of bedwetting is allergy. Bedwetting in children is associated with a much higher rate of hay fever, hives, urinary tract infection, and food and drug allergies in both parents.

A study of 100 bedwetting children revealed that removing milk from the diet stopped the bedwetting in over half of the children. The investigators felt that milk lowers the voiding reflex threshold by its action on the inhibitory center of the brain stem.

The American College of Allergists in their meeting was told that about 5.5 million children wet the bed each night because of a food allergy. Cow's milk was the offending agent in about 60 percent of cases; chocolate, eggs, grains, and citrus fruits were also incriminated.

Removing the food from the diet brought an almost instant cure to bedwetting. An earlier study revealed that in a group of 60 bedwetters, 24 were sensitive to milk, 20 to wheat, 17 to egg, 13 to corn, 4 to chicken and orange, and smaller numbers to pork, tomato, peanut, beef, apple, fish, berries, peas, chocolate, rye, and cauliflower. One researcher reported success with a diet which also eliminated foods containing salicylates and foods containing additives (including sugar and honey) in addition to milk and chocolate. Dr. B. Feingold, who is famous for his work with hyperactive children, reports that hyperactive children have a high incidence of bedwetting, and that his diet is often helpful.

  • Constipation may contribute to bedwetting. A large mass of fecal material can decrease bladder capacity.
  • Various exercises have been recommended in the treatment of enuresis. Probably the most common is merely to stop and start the flow of urine each time the child urinates. Some bedwetters will benefit in six weeks, but others may require longer. To train the bladder to hold more urine some authorities suggest that the child put off going to the bathroom as long as possible after they feel the urge.
  • An exercise to reduce pressure on the urinary bladder has been used with success. The bedwetter lies on his back on any hard surface. With arms stretched back of the head, the patient lifts small weights (such as one pound cans of fruits or vegetables) to a vertical position, and lowers them, repeating the exercise until moderately fatigued. The exercise should be carried out with deep breathing. The same author suggests the “Indian Dance” exercise: bouncing up and down in warm water deep enough to cause a pull on the chest.
  • Since diseases such as pinworms, anemia, upper respiratory tract infections, or any toxic condition may predispose to bedwetting, these should be treated.
  • Many children have a temporary cure of their bedwetting during the summer months when they are outdoors and more physically active. The bedwetter should be encouraged to have vigorous exercise outdoors daily.
  • In younger children a foot massage may assist in improving muscle tone of the feet, and induce a feeling of well-being in the child. There may be a secondary benefit to the bladder.
  • Many children who have stopped bedwetting have a return of the problem during the cold months. Dress the child warmly when outdoors. Chilling increases bladder tone.

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