It can be difficult to get to the root cause of daytime wetting in children. Most of the time the causes are ‘functional’, which means the bladder has formed properly and ought to work. In this case, the cause of the wetting may be that the child is not drinking enough or is constipated.

A small number of children have an underlying medical reason for wetting themselves. Children who struggle to keep dry in the daytime should always be checked out by their GP to rule out underlying medical causes.

In order to explain why your child is having problems with wetting, it helps to understand how the bladder works. 

How does the bladder work?

Diagram of the urinary system

Everyone is born with two kidneys. Kidneys filter blood and produce a waste product - wee. Long thin tubes called ureters carry the wee down to the bladder where it is stored. Bladders stretch to hold wee like muscular balloons.

When you need the loo your bladder muscle (called the detrusor) squeezes. A tap-like muscle at the bottom of the bladder (called the sphincter) opens up the urethra, which carries wee out of the body, and then closes it again. The detrusor should keep squeezing until all the wee in your bladder is gone.

Just like other muscles in your body, the bladder muscles need to be exercised to stay fit and healthy and working properly, especially the detrusor. Your bladder must be filled and emptied lots of times throughout the day; drinking lots is essential to do this.

If your child doesn’t drink enough, their bladder won’t learn to stretch and expand to hold wee and they will get the sensation of needing to wee frequently.

Constipation could be the cause

Constipation may be the cause of daytime wetting accidents. 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.

A full bowel can cause bedwetting too. Take a look at our bedwetting information if your child is also wet at night.

Read our information about childhood constipation or talk to your GP if:

  • Your child does painful poos, runny poo, small blobs of poo or poo that looks like rabbit droppings
  • They poo less than four times a week
  • Their toileting routine is very inconsistent
  • They have lots of poo marks in their pants (called faecal soiling).

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) could be the cause

A UTI can cause daytime wetting too. A bladder infection can make the child’s wee smellier or cloudier than normal and might sting when it comes out. Other signs of a UTI are tummy ache or feeling sick.

Some children don’t have any of these symptoms and just have wet pants. See your GP for a urine test to check if your child has a UTI. If the test is positive, your child will be prescribed antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Read our information on how to stop or manage daytime wetting in children