Ask Dr Ellie: ‘Should I worry that my eight-year-old wets the bed?’

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Ask Dr Ellie: ‘Should I worry that my eight-year-old wets the bed?’

Our resident GP Ellie Cannon answers your questions... on topics including bed wetting, vitamin D and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Bed wetting can be embarrassing for small children. Dr. Ellie answers your questions on the topic...
Bed wetting can be embarrassing for small children. Dr. Ellie answers your questions on the topic...

Q  There has been so much news recently about vitamin D. How am I supposed to know if I should take it or if it’s just a trend? 

I agree that it can be difficult to know whether to follow health advice in the media or not as we seem to be awash with health advice from all avenues these days.

The trend to take vitamins has remained steady over the years and there is good reason why. Vitamins are a genuine essential requirement for our bodies and, often with today’s diets, it can be difficult to ensure you are getting enough from the food you eat.

Even if you eat a very healthy diet, you can miss out on vitamins:  Vitamin D falls into that category because, however healthily you eat, you probably won’t take in enough as there are very few dietary sources of it, the most notable being oily fish. To get enough, you do need to

But what is the value of having enough? We have known for a long time that it is essential for our bodies to utilise
calcium to have healthy bones.

Now there is a growing body of evidence about other vitamin D effects, including that it goes some way to reducing general cancer risk and it is effective at preventing colds and flu. It has certainly got its merits that are proven by science.

Q  March is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. It seems such an awful disease. Can I go for a screening?

I wish I could say yes to this, but the answer is, sadly, no. Currently there is no decent screening test for ovarian cancer, which is why there is no programme, unlike breast screening or smear tests for cervical screening.

GP Dr Ellie Cannon
GP Dr Ellie Cannon

There are two ways to look for possible ovarian cancer: one with blood tests and otherwise with an ultrasound scan.

The problem is that neither are very specific or sensitive for ovarian cancer,
so you can either miss cases or pick up false-positives (things that may look like cancer but aren’t, such as a benign ovarian cyst).

That is why currently we have no regular screening programme for
the disease.

If you are in a family with BRCA genes, or many cases of ovarian and breast cancer, you can be referred by your GP for screening as someone who would be considered high risk.

For other women not considered high risk, the best strategy is to be vigilant of your body and any changes, and be very aware of the symptoms, specifically of ovarian cancer.

The cancer is still considered to be one of the ‘silent cancers’ as it often only displays symptoms late in the disease.

The symptoms to look for are feeling bloated for most days for three weeks, feeling full quickly, lower tummy pain (within the pelvis) or changes to your bowel or bladder habits.

Early diagnosis is absolutely vital
for survival.

Q  Should I worry that my eight-year-old wets the bed? She doesn’t seem upset by it. 

The expected age of a child to be dry at night is five, but even by the age of 10, one-in-20 children still wet the bed, so she is definitely not alone.

Some children just take longer to have night-time control, either because they have a small bladder capacity, or they are less aware of a full bladder, so would not wake up easily. Both these causes improve with age and are seen in children who have never before been dry at night.

Children who start bed wetting after being dry may have stress, diabetes, a urinary infection, or constipation. So the first thing to do is to rule out any of those medical problems.

It is easy to test for urinary infections and diabetes on a urine sample, and correct any constipation. A third of children with constipation will wet the bed.

If you want to try and help her to stop, one option would be a bedwetting alarm, which works on the basic principal of conditioning:  a sensor worn on the pyjamas rings when it starts to get wet. This wakes the child, who gets up to wee. Gradually, the child starts to wake up with a full bladder before the bed is wet. This takes about five to six months and has a high success rate.

The bedwetting charity ERIC has a fantastic array of resources to help.


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