Do Allergies Cause Bedwetting?

Child with allergies

Bedwetting is a challenge many children—and by extension, their parents—face. While it’s a common part of childhood, affecting millions worldwide, it doesn’t make the experience any less challenging for families dealing with it. Among the various causes of bedwetting, allergies have emerged as a potential contributor, sparking curiosity and concern among parents eager for solutions.

In this article, we will highlight how allergies might play a role in contributing to bedwetting, providing insight into the potential link and discussing strategies for management.

Understanding the Connection

Allergic Rhinitis and Sleep Disruption

When we talk about allergies, we usually think about the immediate annoyances like sneezing and itching. However, allergies can also deeply affect sleep, though this impact might not be as obvious.

Allergic rhinitis can cause significant nasal congestion, making it difficult for children to breathe comfortably while sleeping. This can cause them to wake up briefly many times throughout the night without even noticing (also known as microarousals). These small sleep interruptions can significantly impair sleep, making it harder for the brain to control the bladder, which may result in bedwetting (Lai et al., 2018).

Sleep Disruption and Obstruction of the Upper Airways

The switch to mouth breathing is a common compensatory mechanism for blocked nasal passages. This not only makes sleep worse but also increases the chances of bedwetting even more.

Mouth breathing reduces the efficiency of oxygen intake, causing the body and brain to work harder. Research indicates that sleep-disordered breathing, including mouth breathing, is associated with a higher prevalence of nocturnal enuresis in children (MDPI) .

Asthma and Sleep Quality

Similarly, children who suffer from asthma or other respiratory allergies may experience disrupted sleep due to symptoms like coughing or wheezing. These interruptions can prevent children from achieving deep, restful sleep, necessary for full nighttime bladder control.

Asthma’s impact on sleep patterns can also make it difficult for children to wake up in response to a full bladder, thereby increasing the risk of bedwetting (Urrutia-Pereira et al., 2017).

Skin Allergies and Nighttime Discomfort

Severe skin allergies can also play a role in sleep disruptions. The discomfort and itching caused by conditions such as eczema can lead to frequent awakenings and a lighter sleep state. Like respiratory issues, the lack of deep sleep due to skin discomfort can impede a child’s ability to wake up when needed to use the bathroom, thus contributing to bedwetting episodes.

Food Allergies and Bladder Sensitivity

The connection between food allergies and bladder sensitivity is an area of ongoing research, suggesting that, just as food allergies can cause inflammation and irritation within the body, the bladder can also experience increased sensitivity as a result, potentially leading to an urgency to urinate more frequently, especially at night. While there are no specific tests to identify this connection, maintaining a detailed diary of your child’s diet and any subsequent reactions can reveal patterns or specific foods that might be contributing to the problem.

Once the suspected allergens have been identified, consider an elimination diet that systematically removes and then reintroduces suspected allergens, monitoring for any changes in bedwetting frequency. It’s recommended to undertake this process alongside a dietitian or allergist who specialises in food allergies, as these experts can offer insights into safe dietary modifications and provide testing to identify specific allergies.

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Important Considerations

Correlation vs. Causation

Just because a child who wets the bed has allergies doesn’t mean the allergies are causing the bedwetting. It’s important to understand that bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis is a complex issue that can have many contributing factors.

Allergies might be one factor, but there are many others such as lifestyle, psychological, genetic, physical, and medical factors.

Individual Experiences May Vary

The way allergies affect bedwetting varies from child to child. Because of this, it’s important to use management strategies that are tailored to each child’s specific needs.

The type and severity of the allergies, the child’s age, and their developmental stage are all key factors in figuring out the best way to handle bedwetting. For instance, a child with mild seasonal allergies might have different triggers and needs than a child with severe food allergies.

Management Strategies

1. Sleep Management

To help reduce bedwetting issues, it’s essential to create a sleep-friendly environment for your child. You can do this by adding a humidifier to their room to moisten dry air, using hypoallergenic bedding to lessen exposure to allergens like dust mites, and setting up pre-sleep routines that encourage relaxation.

Activities like reading a soothing story or taking a warm bath can help clear your child’s nasal passages and promote uninterrupted sleep. Increasing the quantity of sleep may help since these children may be getting more disturbed sleep.

2. Pollen Management

  • Dry clothes and sheets inside or in a dryer rather than hanging them outside where they can collect pollen.
  • Wash sheets in hot soapy water at least once a week to remove allergens.
  • Limit outdoor activity during times of high pollen counts.
  • Shower or wash hair before bed to remove pollen from the body, especially from the hair.
  • Keep windows (especially the bedroom window) closed during high pollen counts.
  • Keep windows closed when mowing the lawn.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses outdoors to prevent pollen from entering the eyes and hair.

3. Mouth Breathing

If you notice your child mouth breathing during the day or night, ask them to become aware of this and to practice breathing through their nose when possible.

It’s important to note that breathing through the nose does more than just help us breathe—it filters out nearly all airborne allergens, bacteria, and viruses. This not only improves air quality but also helps ensure the body gets the right amount of oxygen without extra effort.

Here are a few strategies to help with mouth breathing:

  • Nasal Hygiene: Regular nasal washing with saline solutions can help clear the nasal passages of allergens and mucus, reducing congestion.  It is advisable to go to your doctor to seek advice as to how you can help your child breathe easier at night.
  • Allergen Control:  Keeping pets out of the sleeping area.
  • Humidifiers: Using a humidifier in the bedroom can add moisture to the air, which helps soothe the nasal passages and keeps them clear.
  • Nasal Strips: Applying adhesive nasal strips across the bridge of the nose can help widen the nasal passages, making breathing easier.
  • Proper Sleeping Position: Sleeping on your side or with the head elevated can reduce the likelihood of mouth breathing by promoting better alignment and opening of the airways.
  • Avoiding Irritants: Steering clear of smoke, strong perfumes, and other respiratory irritants especially before bedtime can help keep the nasal passages clear.
  • Breathing Exercises: Practicing breathing exercises designed to enhance nasal breathing, such as those used in yoga or Buteyko breathing methods, can help train the body to use the nose for breathing more effectively.
  • Medical Interventions: In cases where structural issues or chronic congestion are present, consulting with a healthcare provider might be necessary. They may recommend treatments such as nasal corticosteroids, antihistamines, or even surgery to address any anatomical causes of nasal blockage.

Bedwetting Management Tips

There are several things you can do to help your child significantly reduce bedwetting. For instance, you can limit their fluid intake before bedtime to help minimize the likelihood of accidents during the night (making sure they are well hydrated during the day). Establishing a consistent bedtime routine that includes bathroom visits before bed can also be very effective.

Additionally, using waterproof mattress pads can protect the bedding and make clean-ups easier, reducing stress for both you and your child. These are just some of the measures that can help manage and often reduce the occurrence of bedwetting.  

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When to Seek Medical Advice

If bedwetting is frequent, continues after a period of dryness, or is accompanied by pain or urgency during urination, it’s crucial to seek medical advice. These symptoms can indicate underlying conditions that require professional assessment and intervention.

Enjoy Dryer Nights with Stay Dry at Night

Bedwetting, while common, can be frustrating for children and parents alike. But, armed with the right knowledge, parents can provide effective and long-term support for their children.

For those seeking a comprehensive and empathetic approach, Stay Dry at Night offers a program specifically designed to tackle bedwetting. Our multidisciplinary method, tailored for children aged 5 to 12 years, incorporates cognitive and physical techniques proven to enhance bladder control during the night, making it a valuable resource for parents looking to guide their children to drier nights.

Discover more about how Stay Dry at Night can support your journey towards overcoming bedwetting. Here’s to finding the right support and strategies that pave the way for peaceful, dry nights ahead.

References

Craig TJ, McCann JL, Gurevich F, Davies MJ. The correlation between allergic rhinitis and sleep disturbance. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Nov;114(5 Suppl):S139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.08.044. PMID: 15536445.

Dahan, P., Bessa, J., Oliveira, D., Gomes, C., Cardoso, J., Macedo, I., Belo, M., Figueiredo, A., & Netto, J. (2016). Association between Asthma and Primary Nocturnal Enuresis in Children.. The Journal of urology, 195 4 Pt 2, 1221-6 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.juro.2015.10.081.

Francesco, R., Passerotii, G., Paulucci, B., & Miniti, A. (2004). Mouth breathing in children: different repercussions according to the diagnosis. Revista Brasileira De Otorrinolaringologia. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-72992004000500014.

Lai PH, Yang PS, Lai WY, Lin CL, Hsu CY, Wei CC. Allergic rhinitis and the associated risk of nocturnal enuresis in children: a population-based cohort study. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2018 Nov;8(11):1260-1266. doi: 10.1002/alr.22219. Epub 2018 Oct 3. PMID: 30281945.

Ridolo, E., Caffarelli, C., Olivieri, E., Montagni, M., Incorvaia, C., Baiardini, I., & Canonica, G. (2015). Quality of sleep in allergic children and their parents.. Allergologia et immunopathologia, 43 2, 180-4 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aller.2014.01.004.

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