Moisture alarms for bed-wetting

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:

  • Gets out of bed and disconnects the buzzer.
  • Goes to the bathroom to finish urinating (even if the child no longer feels any need to).
  • Changes clothing and reconnects the alarm.
  • Changes the linens or puts a towel on any wet spot.
  • 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.

Moisture alarms are the most successful treatment for bed-wetting. The treatment is most successful with older children who can hear the alarm and wake themselves. About 75% of children achieve dry nights with moisture alarms, and fewer children relapse than with any other single treatment, such as medicine.1 Moisture alarms may be used with other treatments, such as motivational therapy, as needed.

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 for 4 weeks. It can take up to 15 weeks of use to get steady, long-term success.1
  • The child drinks extra liquids during the day to stretch the bladder toward the end of treatment.

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

Citations

  1. Thiedke CC (2003). Nocturnal enuresis. American Family Physician, 67(7): 1499–1506.

Last Updated: November 12, 2008

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