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Overactive bladder in children

A child with an overactive bladder will have to wee more often, and may not always get to the toilet in time.


Symptoms of overactive bladder in children include:

  • Weeing more often than usual – more than 8 times a day
  • Experiencing urgent needs to get to the toilet suddenly.

The overactive bladder can affect a child during the day and at night, causing bedwetting or daytime wetting.

The child continence group ERIC says you may see a child with the condition trying to fight the urge to wee by standing on tiptoes, squatting or sitting on their ankles.

Daytime wetting and bedwetting can cause emotional distress for a child, and it may make them reluctant to go on school trips, play at other children's homes or go on sleepovers.

Overactive bladder is one of several possible causes of daytime wetting and bedwetting in children.


Girls are more likely than boys to experience an overactive bladder.

Causes may include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Smaller than usual bladder capacity
  • Bladder muscles having uncontrollable spasms
  • Some neurological or health conditions
  • Pollakiuria, or frequent daytime urination syndrome, which may be stress-related and often clears up without treatment
  • Too much caffeine in fizzy drinks and some foods increasing urine output and linked to bladder muscle spasms
  • Food or drink allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Not weeing often enough, holding urine in for too long
  • Bladder or urethra structural problems
  • Constipation, full bowels reducing bladder capacity.

Seek medical advice

Many children will outgrow their overactive bladders. They may learn to 'tune in' to early signals to get to the toilet when they need to and the amount of urine the bladder can hold increases as they grow.

They may also be better able to cope with stressful situations, or may move on from things that used to bother them.

If the condition continues, seek medical advice.


The doctor will make a diagnosis based on the symptoms, the child's medical history and may carry out a physical examination.

Urine tests may be done to check for urinary tract infections.

A GP may recommend a referral to a specialist or continence nurse for further assessment and treatment.


Possible treatments for overactive bladder include:

  • Bladder training, learning how to increase the time between visits to the toilet
  • Medication, oxybutynin may help by relaxing bladder muscles to prevent urinary problems
  • Avoiding caffeine or trigger ingredients
  • Timed voiding, going to the toilet at regular times whether the child feels the need to or not
  • Learning healthy urination habits, taking time to wee rather than hurrying, and relaxing in the toilet
  • Antibiotics, to treat any urinary tract infection (UTI) that may be causing urinary problems.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 06, 2016

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