Your bedwetter can be a happy camper

Your child has reached the age where he or she can go away to camp - summer camp! But for some children, the thought of wetting the bed while away from home is a nightmare.

How common is bedwetting? According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, 10% to 15% of children aged 5 wet the bed and 6% to 8% of children 8 years old have accidents at night. Nocturnal enuresis, as bedwetting is called by doctors, is a common problem most children grow out of. Pediatricians know that some kids just take longer than others to stop wetting the bed. By age 15, only 1 or 2 out of 100 kids still wet their beds.

For bedwetting children going to summer camp, the thought of wetting the bed is a nightmare. One of the most potentially embarrassing things that can happen to a child at camp is bedwetting. Up until now they've been able to keep their bedwetting private. They might not have even cared about it in the privacy of their own home. But now the thought of their peers finding out is terrifying.

It's important for families to understand that camp can be enjoyed without the constant worries of nighttime accidents. Talk to the camp director and your child's counsellor to help them understand your concerns and enlist their help. They can remind your child of things they can do to help prevent bedwetting, such as not drinking for 2 hours before bed, avoiding caffeinated drinks, and using the bathroom before turning in. Most camps are very informed and experienced in dealing with bedwetting.

Before you send your child off to days filled with sports and crafts and nights filled with campfires and songs, talk to your doctor about bedwetting. Your doctor can suggest treatment options to help cope with bedwetting, including medications that can help reduce bedwetting. Talking about your child's fears about bedwetting at camp with your doctor can be very helpful. Together you and your doctor can come up with a management plan for on-the-go kids.

Doctors often recommend starting bedwetting treatment before camp so your child can experience a growing sense of confidence. Going into camp feeling in control will really help your little one to relax so they can just get on with the job of enjoying the great outdoors. It will be pleasant dreams all around as they settle in for a dry night... a happy camper just like everyone else.

For tips on selecting the camp best suited for your child, read "Selecting a summer camp."

Why bedwetting won't be a nightmare at camp

It's important to talk to your child about summer camp and bedwetting. Consider doing a "dry" run when you're preparing to send you child to summer camp. Being prepared not only reduces everyone's worries - it can also help your child feel more confident about the nights ahead. The camp action plan begins at home.

First, your child should be advised to choose a bottom bunk - this helps when they need to make a quick dash to the bathroom at night. Pack extra pyjamas and underpants, and make sure fresh ones and a flashlight are always within arm's reach of the bed. Ziploc plastic bags are handy to discreetly store wet underclothes. When you first arrive at the camp, walk with your child from the cabin to the bathrooms to help them memorize the path and ease any nighttime fears about encountering spiders or animals on the way. Special super-absorbent sleeping bags and liners help keep the bed dry and any unforeseen accidents private.

Another part of the action plan includes informing the camp about the treatment plan your children may be on for bedwetting. Doctors often consider convenience when recommending bedwetting treatment. For example, bedwetting alarms may not be the most convenient method of preventing bedwetting during camp, since this would mean other campers will become aware of your child's situation from the noise of the alarm going off.

Medication for bedwetting can be kept with the camp nurse, who will administer it on a daily basis. Your child should also learn how to properly take the bedwetting medication, including any special instructions on how to use it.

Make sure the action plan includes who to tell and what to do if an accident does happen. Your child should know that camp counsellors are people they can turn to if an accident occurs. Camp staff encourage children to tell them when they've had an accident. It's important for your child to realize that bedwetting is so common that 6% to 8% of 8-year-old children deal with it. So they're not alone at camp. The odds are that at least one other child at their camp is probably feeling the very same fears

By being prepared and rehearsing your action plan, both you and your child can actually look forward to a camp experience full of nothing but lasting friendships and wonderful memories of the great outdoors.

Bedwetting is nothing to fear

There's nothing like scary camp stories to keep kids up all night - and they love it. But tales of ghosts, monsters, and hockey-masked maniacs emerging from the woods are nothing compared to the fear that a bedwetter faces during the night.

The following real-life story shows just how stressful it can be for a bedwetter at camp.

"When I was 12 I had the chance to go to a camp that had 2 overnights. I was very excited because most of my school friends were going and I wasn't going to miss it. I knew I was a bedwetter but didn't think about that in all the excitement, in fact I felt by the time the camping trip came I'd likely have outgrown it... The week leading up to camp was a nightmare for me. I had tremendous anxiety over the thought that my friends (or, worse, the other 12-year-old girls in the class) would find out my secret. I didn't want to tell my parents my fears as they'd likely make me stay at home and I really wanted to go. When I was at the camp I promised myself that I wouldn't go to sleep, so for 2 nights I made it to about 2 am before I finally passed out. I was lucky that I didn't actually wet the bed but the entire trip was somewhat of a miserable experience due to anxiety and sleep deprivation."

Talk to your child to help reduce the fear and anxiety that comes with bedwetting. Talk to your doctor about treatment options that can help your child control their nighttime accidents. Treatments can include bedwetting alarms, behavioural therapies, coping techniques such as wearing absorbent nighttime underwear and limiting fluids before bedtime, and medications.

Being prepared will make all the difference in your child's camp experience. An extra sleeping bag with absorbent disposable liners that adhere to the inside of the bag can help maintain your child's dignity. Extra underpants kept inside the sleeping bag and pyjamas under the pillow make a quick change simple. Keeping a flashlight near is handy during nighttime bathroom runs.

Help make camping the great experience it should be this summer and prepare your child to face their new adventures with the confidence that a dry night can bring.

Selecting a summer camp

You and your child have decided that summer camp is an option this year. Bedwetting may be a complication when deciding on which summer camp to attend. Keep in mind that your child is not alone in their struggle; approximately 6% to 15% of Canadian children aged 5 to 8 years old wet their beds at night. In fact, bedwetting is so frequent that most summer camps have a complete section on their website that details an action plan for campers who don't have a dry night.

Part of the training for a counsellor is to be compassionate, sensitive, and discreet when dealing with bedwetting. Formulating an action plan ahead of time is essential to help your child feel in control. If camp staff and counsellors are aware, they can privately work with your child. Letting the camp know in advance about bedwetting concerns will allow them to have a staff member equipped with an action plan that includes having your child sleep close to the bathroom. Together, children and staff can devise private signs to let counsellors know when an accident has happened. Bedding can be quietly changed when children are away from the cabin.

Talking to the camp director before you commit will give you a good reading on just how experienced they are in dealing with bedwetting and how they put this expertise into practice. Most camps are so familiar with bedwetting they equip every cabin with an extra sleeping bag and pillow as a matter of course.

Other things to consider when sending your child to camp include background and qualifications of the camp director and the age of the counsellors. Have they been trained to deal with sensitive issues like bedwetting and bullying? What percentage of campers returned from past years? If it's a high number, you can rest assured the kids really are happy campers. Is the camp accredited by the Canadian Camping Association or an appropriate provincial camping association? Are all employees trained in first aid? What are the camp's policies for health care and first aid? Is there always a nurse on site? What is the ratio of counsellors to campers? The ratio is key in determining if your child will actually be able to have some private time with their counsellors if an accident happens. Most importantly, ask for references. Camp directors should be forthcoming about supplying you with references.

Before starting camp, gather all the information you can about it. Give your child a map of the camp. This way, your child will have a mental blueprint of the camp when nature calls. A prepared camper is a confident camper, and doing your homework will really help your child feel in control so they can just relax... and enjoy those long summer nights.