Moisture Alarms for Bed-Wetting

Topic Overview

Moisture alarms are the most successful single treatment for bed-wetting.1 They work best for older children who can hear the alarm and wake themselves. If attempts to use a reward system (motivational therapy), drink most fluids in the morning and afternoon, and use the toilet right before going to bed aren't helping, then an alarm may be a good choice for your child. Moisture alarms may be used with other treatments. The alarms aren't meant for children who wet the bed only once or twice a week.2

Moisture alarms for bed-wetting are worn on the body and make a sound when urine first touches the child's underclothing. The child is encouraged to try to "beat the buzzer." When the alarm sounds, the child:

  1. Gets out of bed and turns off the alarm.
  2. Goes to the bathroom to finish urinating (even if the child no longer feels any need to).
  3. Changes clothing and wipes down or replaces the moisture sensor.
  4. Changes the linens or puts a towel on any wet spot.
  5. Resets the alarm and goes back to sleep.

At first, parents may need to help the child with all of the above steps. Children younger than 10 may not hear the alarm, but the treatment still works if parents hear it and wake the child. Also, the parent or child may keep a chart or calendar of dry, wet, and wet-spot nights to encourage the child. The child's doctor will want updates on how this method is working.

A child is less likely to return to bed-wetting after using a moisture alarm if:

  • Treatment is continued until the child has been dry every night in a row for at least 2 weeks. It can take up to 4 months to see results.2
  • The child drinks extra liquids during the day toward the end of treatment, to stretch the bladder.

Moisture alarms are inexpensive, safe, and fairly simple to use. But the child and the parents need to be trained on how to use the alarm.

References

Citations

  1. Graham KM, Levy JB (2009). Enuresis. Pediatrics in Review, 30(5): 165–173.
  2. National Clinical Guideline Centre (2010). Nocturnal enuresis: The management of bedwetting in children and young people. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Available online: http://www.guidelines.gov/content.aspx?id=25680.

Other Works Consulted

  • Glazener CMA, et al. (2005). Alarm interventions for nocturnal enuresis in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2).

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised October 24, 2012

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