Urinary Incontinence In Children: Facts and Fiction
Going to the toilet is something we all do, so we shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about it! It’s not uncommon for urinary incontinence in children who have special needs, so it’s important to know what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to urinary incontinence. After all, knowledge is power...
Fact: Urinary Incontinence is a recognised medical condition
Urinary incontinence in children affects hundreds of thousands of children in the UK and is defined as the unintentional passing of urine. It is a common problem for children with special needs and affects every child differently. According to the children's bowel and bladder charity, ERIC and NHS Modernisation Agency "in the UK an estimated 900,000, or 1 in 12, 5-19 year old's suffer from bowel and bladder conditions. These include bedwetting, daytime wetting, constipation and soiling".
Fiction: Incontinence is the same for everyone
There are several different types of incontinence, with difference incontinence symptoms:
- Stress incontinence - This is when there is stress on your bladder, which causes it to leak urine. For example, by sneezing or laughing. It is usually caused by the weakening of or damage to the muscles that prevent urination.
- Urge incontinence - This is when urine leaks when you feel a sudden urge to pass urine, or soon afterwards. It is commonly due to the over active muscles which control the bladder (called the detrusor muscles).
- Overflow incontinence (chronic urinary retention) - This is when you leak urine frequently due to being unable to fully empty your bladder. It is typically the result of an obstruction or blockage to the bladder, which can prevent it from fully emptying.
- Total incontinence - This is when you pass urine constantly or have frequent leaking due to your bladder being unable to store it. Children with total incontinence may have had a problem with their bladder at birth, a brain, spine or nerve problem or a bladder fistula.
Whereas some children will outgrow daytime wetting, bedtime wetting or both, some children with special needs will have lifelong urinary and bowel incontinence symptoms. It is important that you speak to your GP to investigate what causes incontinence for your child. They can refer you to the NHS continence service for information, advice and support.
Fiction: If you really try, you should be able to control your bladder
It is impossible for some children to control their bladder due to the reasons listed above.
Fact: It doesn’t help to be firm with your child over urinary incontinence
Children with urinary incontinence cannot control the issue so it's important not to be firm with them about it as it will not help. It's important that you support them by ensuring that they have the correct products and that they are aware that it is not their fault or something that they should feel guilty or embarrassed about. Try and support your child with the best possible solutions to make them feel as comfortable as possible where they have an instance, the right adaptive clothing and incontinence underwear can help.
Fact: Constipation can cause daytime wetting
Daytime wetting can be a side effect for some children who suffer with constipation. According to the the charity ERIC, "this is because a bowel that is full of stools presses against the bladder. The bladder becomes squashed and struggles to expand fully to hold lots of wee. As a result, your child feels the urge to urinate frequently and has to do lots of little wees".
Fact: A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) may be the cause
A UTI can also cause day and night time wetting. If you suspect your child has a UTI you should make an appointment with your GP. Other common symptoms are a sore tummy, feeling sick and difficulty passing urine, however, some children have no symptoms other than wetting themselves.
Fact: Drinking less won’t help
It's important for your child to drink when they are thirsty and ideally they should have 6-8 glasses of water-based drinks a day (ERIC). If you drink less, your urine can become less concentrated, which can in turn irritate your bladder.
Fizzy drinks or drinks with artificial flavourings, colourings and sweeteners as well as caffeine can also irritate your bladder. You should try to cut these out and gradually re-introduce them to see what impact they have on your child's bladder.
For further advice, please contact your GP or continence nurse. You can also seek advice from the charity ERIC, who have a free helpline: 0808 169 9949.