Cause for Alarm: A Bedwetting Answer to the Rescue
By Rebecca Klein
Learn about a strategy that worked for this former bedwetter and why the two medical experts we talked with recommend it over any other.
"I think it's a miracle," proclaims six-year-old Jack Purnell. He's talking about his 120-plus dry, training pant-free, nights. "I didn't think I would be able to do all this," admits the former bedwetter from Ellicott City, Maryland, who experienced on-again, off-again success until his family's latest strategy. With his mother, father, and big sister rallying around him, Jack agreed to arm himself with an overnight bedwetting alarm.
It takes the average child about 12 weeks to achieve dryness with an alarm says pediatric nurse practitioner Renee Mercer, whose Elkridge, Maryland, practice is devoted to achieving dryness. Mercer has successfully treated hundreds of children, including Jack, since she opened Enuresis Associates in 2000. Her book, Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness, focuses on bedwetting alarms. She typically starts recommending alarms around age six.
Baltimore pediatrician Dr. Angela LaRosa, of the Maryland Pediatric Group, also coaches patients and routinely refers families to Mercer's book and to her practice. With a few medical exceptions, she says, it's well established that alarms are "probably the only effective method to truly teach dryness."
To understand why alarms are generally used with children who are at least six, we need to start with some bedwetting basics. Mercer explains that it's developmentally normal for children to progress from nightly wetting to intermittent wetting and ultimately to dryness by age five. Mercer defines bedwetting as "the nightly release of urine in children who are six or older." In her book, she reports that 13 percent of six-year-olds experience it.
"We've declared it an event, while sleeping, of impaired arousal to a full bladder," adds Dr. LaRosa. "Age five to six coincides with when children are cognitively ready to really invest in dryness training."