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What's The Cause Of My Child's Frequent Need To Urinate?

Toilet training is one of those challenges that can vary greatly from child to child. Where one might have taken to it almost immediately, another might have trouble getting the hang of it (or seem completely disinterested in the concept of not wearing nappies), or pick up the basics then lose track of their newfound skills.

But what if anxiety about not getting to the toilet in time, develops into a need to go all the time? The issue is often called Pollakiuria, which refers to frequent daytime urination without any other medical reason. It is not widely recognised as an official condition in the UK and Ireland, as there is little known about it, being more of a psychological than a physical issue.

However, when one of our mums asked for advice on Facebook, the community had plenty of useful suggestions:

"Hi Mums, my little boy is 6 and in Junior Infants. He toilet trained normally and had no issues.

In his first month at school, he had an accident (they were wearing rain gear and he just couldn’t get it off quick enough). However since then we are having major problems.

He started having overwhelming urges to go to the bathroom frequently and not much was coming, so we kept thinking it was a UTI. Our GP thought the same but tests showed nothing. He’s had an ultrasound and all is perfect. The doctor sent him to A&E as he thought he was missing something: He had bloods done and all was clear. I noticed in there that every time he saw someone lock the bathroom door he panicked and needed to go.

So it seems to be psychological. When we go somewhere he always needs to know where the toilets are and will go several times. His teachers are now complaining that he goes so much. I think he’s lost the ability to hold it or at the first sensation he feels desperate.

If anyone has any experience or suggestions I’d be so grateful as the doctor says there’s nothing he can do as medically he’s fine. Thanks."

NB: It’s important to visit your GP to rule out any physical causes for the issues, as it might be a sign of something more serious.

Read Next: What Can I Do To Help If My Child Has Anxiety?

Tackling the anxiety

Nikki: Play therapy is brilliant for children this age. My son went to it for a different problem but he was a different child after it. The play therapist was brilliant and he told everyone he was going to her for his me time. He never realised he was going there for help.

Sinead: My little one had something similar, around the time she was just starting school. Our GP said that it can be caused by something else that’s worrying her. If you think it might be true for yours too, try chatting about it in a relaxed way, or find 'situation' books in the library to read with your child if appropriate. Then make it clear that they can talk to you if they have any worries, and reassure them that everything is ok. 

Imelda: Perhaps your son got a fright when he had his accident in school. Maybe he thinks that the minute he gets that feeling to wee that he HAS to go now, so he doesn't have another accident in school or other public places, even if that feeling only has a trickle or wee; resulting in numerous bathroom visits. I know when I was training my kids, every feeling was acted upon in a rush so they wouldn't wet themselves. I'd speak to your GP about getting a referal for a therapist to help him with his fear/anxiety.

Ciara: It sounds like it could definitely be linked to anxiety, so it might help if you try not to draw attention to it. Your little boy might sense your concerns about his behaviour, which could add to his worries. Also, try not to discuss the problem with others in front of your child. This might be hard if you meet a friend or your mum phones, because you'll need support, but don't be tempted to ever talk about it while your child is in earshot.  He can hear you and it will add further to his anxiety.

Emma: Explain the bladder – but only once! Find a quiet time with your son to talk to him about how the bladder works: The place in our bodies where wee wee is made. Explain how it can stretch, and hold a lot of wee wee before it needs to come out.  But then don't refer to it again unless absolutely necessary! My son remembered this conversation and after he slept through for the first night in weeks, he did a huge wee and proudly told me “I made my wee wee big again”. It’s also handy to keep the routine pees like last thing at night, and before going out, so they find a healthy routine.

Read Next: Understanding Anxiety In Your Child

Tackling the physical issues

Kate: My little girl had the same thing – she wasn’t as bad at home, but any time we were out somewhere or she was at school etc she’d be desperate for the loo all the time. We gradually encouraged her to wait a little longer each time, starting at home first. Then we asked her teachers and any babysitters to be aware of the problem, and use distraction techniques. Once she was practicising this at home and elsewhere, it got better much quicker.

Siobhan: My little guy is six and in senior infants. He was fully trained and when he started school last year he has accidents for months. It eventually wore off, doctor suggested maybe it was the strains of starting school. We then noticed he found it hard to hold his wee and it turns out his foreskin is really tight so he needs to be circumsized as the treatment we tried didn't work.

Laura: I was the same as a kid I was obsessed with the toilet: I needed to go into a bathroom everywhere I went. The doctor told my mother to get me to hold out, or use a distraction. I was like that up until I was about nine or 10, so I had to learn to stop going to every bathroom, as I didn’t even need to pee.

Margaret: My five year old was a bit like this, but he was wetting himself at home too! Fully trained etc but then got lazy! And didn't give a hoot that he was wet! Obviously with school we couldn't have that so we had to retrain him again, using alarms and telling him to go, and even if he didn't need to go, he had to try when the alarm went off! His reward was a sticker of his choice for his chart and when he worked up to 100 stickers, he would get a massive toy that he really wanted! Happily it's worked and he has his toy and we've had no accidents in school, and only the odd one at home! He's working towards something else now and doing great, but we still need to tell him to go to the bathroom.

Deirdre: My son had this problem too…We had been talking about ‘when you go to school’ and I think it's possible he had some worries about this.  He also had some problems at night –if he woke up in the night then he'd be running to the loo every 15 minutes or so, which had a devastating effect on his sleep patterns and mine, which only added to the problem!  My health visitor explained that if the capacity of the bladder (a stretchy muscle) is not used then it will shrink to a tiny size, and feel full with only a few drops of urine in it.  What you need to do is re-train the bladder and gradually stretch it out again so that it gets used to holding larger amounts of wee. We used distraction techniques, and trying to get him to wait a bit longer each time.

Read Next: Potty Training Advice: All Your Questions Answered

Top tips for distraction:

During the day: Essentially, you need to use distraction to gradually extend the length of time between loo visits, so your child's bladder (and mind) can be re-trained. So, if your child says they need a wee, say “Can you help me tidy these bricks away first?” Then when the bricks are tidy, say “Oh, come and look at this bird in the garden!”  And then you say “Shall we do a jigsaw?” Just keep distracting them as long as possible.  Without drawing any attention to it, set yourself targets, increasing them gradually: 20 mins, 30 mins, 40 mins.

If your child needs a wee while you're out and about, say “you'll have to wait until we get home, there's no toilet here”.  Sometimes the distraction won’t work and your child is insistant, in which case let them go, without making an issue of it, and start again with a new time target when they get back.

In the car: Go prepared for long journeys, or even short ones.  If your child needs a wee in the car, distract them with singing songs, playing I-Spy, a bag of games/toys, playing a story CD... your child might feel as though they are going to wet themselves, but as long as you’re taking reasonable breaks, they can do it – the panic is worse than the need.

At night: If your child exhibits symptoms at night time, leave a potty next to the bed ‘just in case.’ This might reassure them enough that they sleep through, and you won’t have to listen out as much. However, if your child is toilet trained, don't be tempted to put them back in nappies at night if they are already out of them.

Read Next: How To Encourage A Nervous Toddler To Use The Toilet

Have you had issues with this in your family? Do you have any tips for getting past it? We'd love to hear.


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