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This guest post is written by Karen Radford, Executive Director of Anzacare, a manufacturer and supplier of medical devices for bedwetting (enuresis), including bedwetting alarms. Karen writes about how bedwetting alarms are a relatively unknown treatment and explains how they work.

Dri-sleeper excel

Dri-sleeper Excel bedwetting alarm. Photo: Anzacare

I was visiting friends in south west London and, as a manufacturer of bedwetting alarms, I thought I might pop into some local pharmacies and see what solutions they would recommend for an eight-year-old who regularly wets the bed. Two of the pharmacies belonged to national chains and one was an independent.

None of the retail staff I approached knew of a solution. In fact, this appeared to be the first time they had heard of the problem!

In one of the pharmacies the sales assistant suggested I use pull-ups and showed me the range of nappies available for children up to the age of 15. This shocked and saddened me. I could not imagine how a five year old would feel about having to wear nappies every night, let alone a 15 year old! Plus the ongoing cost of disposable nappies or pull-ups could be substantial for a family.

When I explained that I was looking for a cure rather than a way of managing the problem, the retail staff took me to the pharmacists. Two of the pharmacists said they were aware of drugs that could be prescribed for bedwetting but I would need to visit my GP to get these. One of the pharmacists recommended that I limit my child’s drinking habits before bed, particularly after 4pm.

The only person who recommended a bedwetting alarm was a young assistant who happened to overhear the conversation. She said her brother had used an alarm when he was young and it had cured his bedwetting. I asked her where I could find an alarm but she didn’t know.

It would appear that awareness of alarm treatment for bedwetting is not high among retail pharmacies. This is a shame because one in fifteen 5-12 year olds suffers with wetting at night and bedwetting alarms have a high success rate (70-90%) compared to behavioural therapy or drugs. They are also a safe and cost effective solution. Fortunately, ERIC sells a variety of bedwetting alarms and has lots of information on how to help your child with bedwetting.

How alarms work

Bedwetting alarm graphic

Alarms work on a principle called conditioned learning, whereby the weak or inoperative signal of a full bladder in a child who wets the bed is replaced by a strong signal in the form of an alarm. A sensor is placed in the child’s underwear during sleep to detect when urine is released and activates an alarm which wakes the child so they can get up and go to the toilet.

Over time, the child gradually learns to associate the sensation of a full bladder with the need to wake up before they wet the bed and eventually the bladder reflex will function correctly and let the child sleep through the night.

Further information about bedwetting

If your child suffers from bedwetting, read ERIC's information about night time wetting.

ERIC's Guide to Night Time Wetting is an excellent starting point for children, young people and families wanting to understand how the bladder works, why bedwetting happens, and what treatment is available.

A booklet answering the most common questions about bedwetting alarms is also available.

Read the guide and see if an alarm is right for your child. The joy of a dry night’s sleep could be your child’s before long!

Bedwetting alarms are not the solution for every child, some children may require medication to treat bedwetting. ERIC’s Guide to Night Time Wetting gives an overview of the medication that is prescribed to treat bedwetting, which is called Desmopressin.