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About bladder and bowel dysfunction in children
Bladder and bowel dysfunction refers to problems kids have going to the bathroom. These issues include having accidents or not being able to go when they need, leading to daytime wetting accidents, needing to go to the bathroom frequently and constipation. Bladder and bowel dysfunction can cause stress and anxiety for children and their families. It can be especially hard when school-aged children have accidents at school.
Recently, problems going to the bathroom have become more common in children. These problems are often caused by the following:
Children waiting longer between bathroom breaks, so they don’t go when they feel the need. This delay can stem from less structured bathroom routines. Frequent use of phones or tablets or playing video games can distract kids, so they wait longer between bathroom breaks.
Changes in diaper technology keep children drier and more comfortable, but less aware when they’ve gone to the bathroom. Cloth diapers felt wet and required immediate changing, making kids more aware of their bathroom habits.
More processed food in a child’s diet can affect bathroom habits, such as causing constipation.
Many of these habits can physically affect bladder and bowel nerves and muscles, which can lead to long-term problems with going to the bathroom.
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Expert care for kids with bladder and bowel dysfunction
Help your child build healthy bathroom habits with support from expert health care providers at UW Health.
Signs of bladder and bowel dysfunction
Symptoms of bladder and bowel dysfunction can vary for every child. The most common symptoms include:
Accidents at school or during the day
Needing to get to the bathroom frequently or urgently
Not being able to go to the bathroom at all
Treating bladder and bowel dysfunction
Though bladder and bowel dysfunction has become more common, it’s highly treatable. There are several ways you can help your child get their bathroom habits on the right track from the comfort of your home. And the UW Health Kids experts can answer any questions you may have about helping manage your child’s bathroom habits.
If your child is experiencing serious problems going to the bathroom, learn more about the medical treatments we provide.
The most common ways to treat bladder and bowel dysfunction include:
Drinking more water can help prevent symptoms like constipation. Teaching your child to avoid fluids at specific times, such as before bedtime, can help them avoid accidents.
Cutting out processed foods (such as white bread, cookies and candy) and including foods high in fiber (such as whole grain bread and fruit) in your child’s diet can help manage diarrhea and constipation.
Helping your child avoid the five “Cs” (foods and additives that irritate the bladder) can help reduce accidents at home or school. The five "Cs" include:
Encouraging your child to move more can also help relieve symptoms like constipation. Get them excited about going outside to play or pausing their video games to get up and move.
Setting up regular bathroom breaks can help your child learn healthy habits. It also encourages them not to hold it for too long when they need to go.
For example, remind your child to take regular breaks from screens and devices. Using tablets and similar devices can cause children to become distracted and wait longer than they should before going to the bathroom. Reminding them to take regular bathroom breaks can help.
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Convenient care at UW Health can help you and your child address their bladder and bowel dysfunction.