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Bladder Symptoms in Children

Checked: 25-03-2024 by 3 Vicky Ryan Next Review: 24-03-2026

Overview

If constipation if the primary concern please see the Constipation in Children page.

This page gives advice about management of enuresis and bladder problems.These can usually be managed in primary care.

General Principles

  • Always treat constipation before trying to manage enuresis unless there are red flags.
  • If the child has learning disabilities, involve the learning disability team as they may require specialist management and may be eligible for continence aids/ equipment.
  • All children need a full history and urine dip by their GP

Community Support

The Sirona Children's Bladder & Bowel Service page has links to resources. There is also a clinically-led, specialist service which works to support children and young people up to the age of 18 years with bladder and bowel problems which cannot be managed in primary care.

Management in Primary Care

Always treat constipation first.

Children presenting with Primary Enuresis without daytime symptoms

  • Bedwetting (enuresis) | CKS | NICE - Includes advice on use of enuresis alarms and desmopressin*.
  • GP clinical assessment to identify any underlying organic cause (urine dip, daytime symptoms, spine and lower limb neurology) and make a referral to secondary care if appropriate.
  • Optimise fluids: 6-8 non fizzy, uncaffeinated drinks a day (blackcurrant and fruit juices can exacerbate symptoms).
  • Encourage 4-7 voids a day, discuss toilet position (including sitting for boys).
  • Signpost parents or carers to ERIC (the children’s bowel and bladder. Charity) and Bladder and Bowel UK (see details in resources below). They also offer helplines, and specific areas for children and teens.
  • If the child relapses or fails to get dry using the above management over six months, consider referral to the Sirona Bladder and Bowel service (see criteria and how to refer in section below).
  • *Desmopressin - If prescribing desmopressin ensure that you follow the advice in CKS. Desmopressin is green on the BNSSG Paediatric formulary, ensure the preparation with the lowest acquisition cost is selected where appropriate.

Children presenting with Primary Enuresis with Daytime Symptoms

  • Bedwetting (enuresis) | CKS | NICE - section on daytime symptoms including frequency, urgency and daytime wetting, poor urinary stream, dysuria 
  • GP clinical assessment including 
    • spine, lower limb neurology
    • urine analysis
    • abdominal mass, large bladder
    • faltering growth.
    • Please see following link to the Pier Network website for more information
  • If abnormal examination or constant dribbling refer to secondary care
  • If normal examination and under 5,
    • Optimise fluids (6-8 non fizzy, uncaffeinated drinks a day, blackcurrant and fruit juices can exacerbate symptoms)
    • Encourage 4-7 voids a day, discuss toilet position (including sitting for boys).
    • Assess for and treat constipation.
    • Signpost parents or carers to ERIC (the children’s bowel and bladder. Charity) and Bladder and Bowel UK (see details in resources below). They also offer helplines, and specific areas for children and teens.
  • If normal examination and over 5,
    • Advice as for under 5s and follow up with GP.
    • If no improvement at follow up consider referral to Children’s Continence Service if the child/young person is following all advice and any constipation has been appropriately managed (see referral criteria above).

 Secondary Enuresis (having been dry for a period of at least 6 months)

  • Bedwetting (enuresis) | CKS | NICE - section on secondary bedwetting.
  • These children are more likely to have pathology
  • GP assessment
    • History including recent psychological or family issues, developmental problems, neurological symptoms especially those affecting lower limbs, increased thirst
    • Examination, growth, abdominal mass, spine and neurological examination of lower limbs, urine analysis for sugar or UTI
  • If examination and history unremarkable treat as for primary enuresis above

Soiling

  • See constipation guidelines.
  • If soiling remains a problem despite full treatment of constipation, address psychological/behavioural issues.
  • If persistent and impacting on daily life consider referral to Childrens Bladder and Bowel Service.

Red Flags

Consider more urgent referral in the following scenarios:

Bladder and Bowel Service - Sirona

The Sirona Children's Bladder & Bowel Service is a clinically-led, specialist service which works to support children and young people up to the age of 18 years with bladder and bowel problems. 

Specialist Nurses who are experienced in children’s continence issues will provide assessment, treatment, support and advice to children and young people with the following issues:

  • Children/young people who are still experiencing difficulties following initial support and intervention at tier 1 (fluid optimisation/bladder training, assessment and treatment of constipation, toilet routines, diet and lifestyle advice)
    • Constipation/soiling aged 0-17 years
    • Daytime wetting aged 4-17 years
    • Night-time wetting aged 5-17 years
  • Children/young people with complex needs/profound physical/learning disabilities who are unlikely to achieve continence and require a continence assessment.

Referral

Community Referral

To refer to the Children's Bladder and Bowel service, please use the Single Point of Entry (SPE) form .This is also be available as an EMIS template.

Please ensure you complete ALL sections of the SPE form and attach any relevant information to prevent the referral being rejected and treatment being delayed.

Email to: sirch.singlepointofentry@nhs.net

Secondary Care Referral

Consider secondary care referral via eRS for children with red flags or consider paediatric advice and guidance for other concerns.

 

Resources

Self help

ERIC - the Children's Bowel and Bladder Charity

Offers a helpline service for families to talk to an expertly trained continence advisor, a website with information on childhood bowel and bladder problems plus downloadable resources and an online shop.

Information and advice - ERIC

Helpline – 0808 8010343 Mon-Thurs 10am-2pm

Email – helpline@eric.org.uk

Continence products – Tel: 0117 3012100.

Email – sales@eric.org.uk

Bladder and Bowel UK

Offers advice and information on all bladder and bowel issues in children and young people, including those with additional needs.

Children - Bladder & Bowel UK (bbuk.org.uk)

Helpline – Tel: 0161 6078219.

Email – bladderandboweluk@disabledliving.co.uk

Web videos

Childhood constipation and soiling (thepoonurses.uk)

A 15-minute video, great for explaining constipation/soiling and the use of macrogols to adults and older children.

The Pooh Song CBEEBIES (youtube.com)

A fun clip by CBeebies Dr Ranj designed for young children and children with special needs to encourage toileting.

Sirona Website

Children’s Bladder & Bowel Service – Children and Young People’s Services (sirona-cic.org.uk)

Interoception

Kelly Mahler's Interoception Training: Boost Body Awareness (kelly-mahler.com)



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