Free seminars at Riley can help kids stop wetting the bed

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Riley’s top-ranked urology department is known for cutting-edge treatment, but it’s also a resource for families facing a more common problem.


By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Mention bedwetting to parents of young children and they can immediately relate.

The middle-of-the-night sheet changes, the sobs, the smell, the shame. It all takes a toll on the child and the parents.

Enuresis, or bedwetting, afflicts approximately 5 million to 7 million children in the United States, and 10% to 15% will continue to wet the bed until age 6 or later.

It’s a common problem, and it can affect a child’s well-being, self-esteem and social development, explains Shelly King, nurse practitioner in Riley Hospital for Children’s urology department.

“It causes embarrassment, it can keep them from doing things with their friends, and if other siblings know about it, word can leak out at school. It’s not just that they wet the bed at night, it’s the psychological impact that it has on self-esteem and body image.”

That’s why Riley Hospital for Children’s top-ranked urology department offers free seminars directed at parents of kids age 5 and up who are struggling with the problem.

Riley’s urology department is among the best in the nation, providing the highest level of care to kids with both basic and complex urological problems. U.S. News & World Report’s most recent analysis ranks it as No. 3 in the country, so naturally its clinical staff is called upon to treat children with a host of serious conditions.

“We do a lot of reconstruction work and things that make us kind of famous,” King said.

But helping families with a bedwetting issue is also part of its mission. To that end, and to help parents and kids avoid long waits for appointments with a urologist, the department presents monthly seminars at the Riley Outpatient Center and Indiana University North Hospital.

Currently, pediatricians refer kids to Riley’s urology clinic to be seen for a bedwetting problem, but King wants to get the word out about the free seminars as a first step. The seminar offers information designed to jumpstart treatment without a formal office visit. After completing the steps outlined in the seminar, if a child is still wetting the bed, then they should come to the clinic, King said.

The seminar, presented by King and fellow nurse practitioner Melissa Young, includes a slide presentation on anatomy, why bedwetting happens and theories behind it, as well as information on types of treatment.

The lecture takes about an hour, and families will leave with a diary to fill out as they work through behavior modification steps. That diary then can help if a child needs to be seen in the clinic.

“Some don’t ever need to be seen,” King said. “We want to improve access for people who really want to get help without having to wait for an appointment.”

Bedwetting can run in families, King said. Children whose parents wet the bed as kids are likely to suffer the same problem.

If it’s a sleep arousal problem, where a child does not wake up easily, bed-wetting alarms can help train them to wake up to the urge to urinate. But kids might also have an overactive bladder, developmental delays or psychiatric/emotional disorders. Family trauma can also contribute, though it’s less common.

To put it into perspective, King said if she went into a classroom of kindergartners, 15 percent of the students might have nighttime wetting, but only 1 percent of those kids likely has a true urological problem, such as a birth defect.

Her goal is to reduce the stigma around it, reminding parents that it’s not a behavioral issue and kids don’t do it on purpose. While the majority of children are completely toilet-trained by age 4, nighttime wetting is not considered abnormal until after age 5.

She understands the stress on families.

“Imagine if you have an 8-year-old wetting the bed every night. They have to get up in the morning and take a shower, you’ve got to strip the bed, do laundry, and there’s the odor and the anxiety that someone will find out. Parents are always worrying about this. They worry about it a lot more than we imagine, I’m sure.”

That’s why she’s passionate about volunteering her time to put on these seminars.

In addition to all of the groundbreaking work Riley’s urology team does every day, she said, “this is something really amazing that we do.”

IU North’s first seminar on bedwetting this year is from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 17.

Riley’s first seminar is Feb. 5 from noon to 1 p.m. in the ROC.

For more information and to register, call (317) 944-8896.

Photo by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

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