Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own. If there's a family history of bed-wetting, your child will probably stop bed-wetting around the age the parent stopped bed-wetting.

If your child isn't especially bothered or embarrassed by an occasional wet night, traditional home remedies may work well. However, if your grade schooler is terrified about wetting the bed during a sleepover, he or she may be more motivated to try additional treatments. The child's and parents' motivation can impact the selection of treatment and its success.

If found, underlying causes of bed-wetting, such as constipation or sleep apnea, should be addressed before other treatment.

Moisture alarms

These small, battery-operated devices — available without a prescription at most pharmacies — connect to a moisture-sensitive pad on your child's pajamas or bedding. When the pad senses wetness, the alarm goes off.

Ideally, the moisture alarm sounds just as your child begins to urinate — in time to help your child wake, stop the urine stream and get to the toilet. If your child is a heavy sleeper, another person may need to listen for the alarm and wake the child.

If you try a moisture alarm, give it plenty of time. It often takes at least two weeks to see any type of response and up to 16 weeks to enjoy dry nights. Moisture alarms are effective for many children, carry a low risk of relapse or side effects, and may provide a better long-term solution than medication does. These devices are not typically covered by insurance.

Medication

As a last resort, your child's doctor may prescribe medication to stop bed-wetting. Certain types of medication can:

  • Slow nighttime urine production. The drug desmopressin (DDAVP, others) boosts levels of a natural hormone (anti-diuretic hormone, or ADH) that forces the body to make less urine at night. But drinking too much liquid with the medication can cause problems with low sodium levels in the blood and the potential for seizures. So drinking only 8 ounces (237 milliliters) of fluids with and after the medication is recommended. Don't give your child this medication if he or she has a headache, has vomited or feels nauseated. Desmopressin also may be used in short-term situations, such as going to camp.

    According to the Food and Drug Administration, nasal spray formulations of desmopressin (DDAVP Nasal Spray, DDAVP Rhinal Tube, others) are no longer recommended for treatment of bed-wetting due to the risk of serious side effects.

  • Calm the bladder. If your child has a small bladder, an anticholinergic drug such as oxybutynin (Ditropan XL) may help reduce bladder contractions and increase bladder capacity. This medication is usually used in combination with other medications and is generally recommended only when other treatments have failed.

Sometimes a combination of medications is most effective. There are no guarantees, however, and medication doesn't cure the problem. Bed-wetting typically resumes when medication is stopped.

Oct. 11, 2014

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