Wetting beds a big issue after quakes

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2013

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Bedwetting in unsettled Christchurch children is becoming a serious health issue, concerning health professionals.

Children are soiling themselves at school and carrying a change of clothes in their schoolbags, and teenagers as old as 15 are still wetting the bed. Meanwhile, the waiting list for the city's continence advisers has ballooned to more than 12 weeks.

Some health professionals believe the issue is linked to the earthquakes as a loss of sewerage facilities put toilet training on hold.

Nurse Maude clinical services general manager Fran Cook said the waiting list for continence advisers was usually about six weeks, but before the school holidays it swelled to more than three months.

Faecal-soiling appeared to be behind the growing demand, she said.

"This is a serious problem for these children and families. The social impact is huge and it's stressful to the parents and the child."

She said an extra continence adviser, with skills in paediatrics, was hired about six months ago to ease the demand. Several alarmed bed mats, which sound off when moisture hits the bed, were bought in mid-2011.

The average age of children suffering encopresis, or faecal-soiling, was about 5, which meant the child was most likely toilet trained about the time of the quakes.

Continence advisers believed the use of Portaloos on street corners and chemical toilets in backyards could have forced some parents to leave toddlers in nappies for longer, which had a detrimental effect on toilet training, Ms Cook said.

School nurses had reported heightened anxiety, depression and anger in children with the problem, and many pupils had been referred to post-quake support counsellors, she said.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president John Bangma said primary school children were often prone to toileting issues, but the problem had become worse since the quakes.

Some pupils had been soiling themselves at school, and Mr Bangma said some children carried spare clothes in their bags.

Psychologist Sara Chatwin said Christchurch children's toilet training was probably "interrupted and prolonged" throughout the quakes. "In terms of priority, toilet training would not have been one during the quakes.

"Parents need to take heart that the process may have been interrupted but their child will come right. It might just take a little bit longer."

The Canterbury District Health Board has fielded an increase of referrals for enuresis, or urinary incontinence. Carolyn Gullery, the general manager of planning and funding, said concerned parents should first contact their family doctor.

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