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Monday, November 8, 2010

My 18-year-old daughter wet the bed until she was 11. A cousin wet the bed when she was a kid as well. I did not wet the bed as a child, but I got interested in the problem when I was training to be a pediatrician 30 years ago. So you could say that I know a fair amount about bed-wetting.

I sympathize with kids who wet the bed because it's hard to deal with something that happens when you're sleeping. Even more frustrating is the fact that kids don't know if it's going to happen. Although some kids wet the bed every night, most do it less often. But the bottom line is that 5 million American children go to sleep at night not knowing if their bed will be wet or dry in the morning. Because it's hard to appreciate how big the number 5 million is, keep this in mind: You would have to fill up Nationals Park more than 100 times to find seats for 5 million people!

Most kids do not tell their friends if they wet the bed, which is understandable. But because kids don't talk about wetting the bed, a child who does often thinks she's the only one with the problem. Now you know that isn't true.

Bed-wetting is hardly ever caused by a serious medical problem. In most cases, it happens because your bladder can't hold all the urine (pee) your body makes at night. If most people need to pee during the night, the bladder either relaxes to hold more urine or sends a signal to the brain telling the person to wake up so he can go to the bathroom. Kids who wet the bed at night do not wake up when their bladder signals the brain that they have to go. Many kids don't even wake up after they wet the bed! Talk about sleeping like a log. If your mom or dad says you're a "deep sleeper," that's what they're talking about.

So what can you do if you wet the bed? Well, the first thing to do is to let your doctor know. It was recently discovered that most parents do not raise the issue at checkups either because they don't think the doctor can help or they don't want to embarrass their child. On the other hand, many doctors don't ask patients if bed-wetting is a problem because they figure you'd tell them if it were.

Eventually, bed-wetting stops. But there's no reason to wait if you can speed up the process. For example, your doctor might recommend a small device your wear to bed that helps you wake up if you start to pee while you're asleep.

You and your parents should remember:

-- Bed-wetting is a medical problem, so there is no reason to be embarrassed about it.

-- No one wets the bed on purpose.

-- Howard Bennett

Howard Bennett, a Washington pediatrician, is the author of "Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting." You can download sections of his book at http://www.wakingupdry.com.

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