If your child wets the bed, you will want to try behavior modification first. However, for some children who wet the bed frequently, there are medication options available. Before deciding to give your child medication, carefully weigh the risks and advantages, as many medications or drugs have side effects:
DDAVP (Desmopressin Acetate) can help some children
DDAVP is a medication that can help some children stop wetting the bed. This medication works by reducing the amount of urine the body produces at night. DDAVP is based on research which shows that sufferers of Enuresis have lower than normal levels of something called antidiuretic hormone, which is a hormone that regulates the body’s urine production by having the kidneys hold water so that less urine flows to the bladder.
Children with low levels of this hormone produce more urine nightly. DDAVP corrects this problem by supplying a substance that works in the body just as the hormone does (to reduce urine) and is also though to help children wake more easily.
It is important to note that Desmopressin Acetate treats the symptoms of bedwetting. This means that while your child is on this medication, they will urinate less during the night. However, the condition of bedwetting per se will not be cured. In many cases, when children stop taking drugs such as DDAVP, bedwetting returns. The hope is that by the time they stop the medication, bedwetting will have passed on its own. This is not always the case.
DDAVP is more likely to work with older children who have normal bladder capacity. Younger children with small bladders are less likely to be helped by the drug.
DDAVP can be taken as a pill or nasal spray. The nasal spray is usually given to younger patients who may have a hard time with the pill form.
However, the spray may be affected by colds or stuffy noses. The pills have also been found to be slightly more effective in some studies.
DDAVP needs to be taken at night but does not need to be taken daily to be effective. This drug also has some side effects, including stomach upset and headache. These symptoms are more common in patients who take the nasal form of the drug. Patients taking the nasal spray may also experience nosebleeds and sinus or nasal pain. More seriously, children who take DDAVP are at risk of seizures caused by water intoxication.
This medical emergency usually has symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and headache. If your child is taking DDAVP and experiences these symptoms, seek medical help right away.
Water intoxication and the risk of seizure can be prevented if children taking DDAVP avoid drinking water the evenings that they are taking the drug. In general, no fluids should be taken in the two hours before retiring and only small amounts in the late afternoon and evening leading up to bedtime.
Imipramine is another drug option
Imipramine is an anti-depressant which reduces the amount of urine produced during the night. It is sometimes prescribed to children who are unable to take the similarly-working DDAVP, but many doctors are reluctant to prescribe Imipramine because of its many side effects, which can include sleeping problems, nausea, irregular heart beats, and dry mouth.
Some doctors are also quite cautious with this medication because researchers have not been able to completely define how it works to prevent bedwetting.
Imipramine, like most drugs used to treat bedwetting, works best for older children who have normal bladder capacity. Like most other drugs used to treat the problem, it also only affects symptoms, meaning that those who stop taking Imipramine will frequently resume bedwetting.
This drug is usually taken an hour or two before bedtime. Doses vary based on the patient. Side effects with this medication are rare, but may include irritability, sleeping disruptions, fatigue or drowsiness, changes in appetite, mood swings, and personality changes. It is also possible to die from this drug if an overdose occurs.
Anticholinergic drugs are an option for some patients
Anticholinergic drugs work by increasing bladder capacity and by stopping the contractions of the bladder that some experts think lead to bedwetting. Common Anticholinergic drugs used for bedwetting include oxybutynin (Ditropan) and hyosyamine (Levsinex).
These drugs, unlike many medications used to treat bedwetting, are effective for children with bladder capacity who have trouble controlling their bladders during the daytime as well as at night.
These drugs are usually used with DDAVP for children who wet the bed but may be used alone if a child wets the bed due to general bladder control problems that are present during the day as well. These drugs are taken once or twice a day, often at bedtime. They are not intended for children under twelve years old. Anticholinergic drugs do have a number of side effects, including flushing and dry mouth syndrome.
Be wary of medicating your child if other options are available
The drugs used to treat bedwetting do not cure the problem, and since these drugs also carry risks and side effects, any parent should think carefully and consider all the risks and options before choosing medication. Medication can be useful for children who wet the bed very late or who seem to suffer unduly from the problem. However, medication should never be treated lightly, nor should it be tried as the first method of stopping bedwetting. You should also remember that children who take medication for bedwetting will often revert to bedwetting once the medication has stopped.