About twice a month, I see a child who has been urinating very frequently during the day. It usually occurs in children under the age of eight, and the pattern is remarkably similar. Rather suddenly, the child starts making frequent trips to the bathroom to pee. She feels an urgent need to go but once she gets to the toilet, only a small amount of urine comes out. It doesn’t hurt when she pees. The child goes back to what she was doing only to feel the same urge five to ten minutes later. The feeling disappears when the child goes to sleep only to resume again the next morning.
The bladder is basically a pouch made of muscle. The lining of the bladder contains a complex system of nerves that’s designed to keep us dry and alert us when we need to go. Most of the time, the bladder signals that it’s time to urinate when it’s about halfway full. This is accomplished by “stretching” nerves that sense increased pressure within the bladder.
The situation I described above is called daytime frequency syndrome. It’s not clear what causes the condition, but in some cases, it may be due to stress. The symptoms usually resolve in a week or two. There is no treatment for the problem other than to reassure children and let them go to the bathroom when they feel the urge. When I see kids in my office with this problem, I give them a quick anatomy lesson and then explain that their bladder is being silly by signaling them to go when it’s not full.
If you think your child has daytime frequency syndrome, you should talk to your doctor to make sure something else isn’t causing the problem. Doctors consider the following conditions anytime a child presents with frequent urination:
- Urinary tract infection: If a child has a UTI, she will usually have a fever, abdominal pain or burning when she urinates.
- Diabetes: If a child has diabetes, she will usually produce a normal to large amount of urine each time she goes. In addition, they commonly wake up at night to pee or start wetting the bed.
- Constipation: Most parents don’t know what’s going on with their children’s bowel movements once they are toilet trained. Constipation can present with large, hard or infrequent stools that may or may not be associated with tummy aches. The only way to be sure your child isn’t having a poop problem is to look at her stools for a few days.