Children are excited about other activities such as playing, reading, socializing, watching TV, or playing computer games, that they try to hold their urine as long as possible by tightening their pelvic muscles and sphincters. They will commonly wiggle, dance, and squat to avoid using the restroom. When they finally go, it is usually urgent, and they do not take their time to relax and let all of the urine out. Their bladder may feel empty, but it is not. If a child is distracted and unable to relax their sphincter muscles, they may only void small amounts of urine and leave a significant amount behind.
Children with urinary frequency and other voiding problems should not be encouraged to drink large amounts. This will only cause the child to make more urine, but it will not promote better bladder emptying. Drinks that contain carbonation, caffeine, or sugar are thought to be irritating to the lining of the bladder and may cause a child to urinate frequently. Caffeine and sugars are body stimulants and give children extra energy that will also prevent them from relaxing on the toilet when they need to.
Medications to relax an “overactive bladder” and decrease urinary frequency do exist and are commonly prescribed in adults. These medications are effective in some children, but the underlying abnormal potty habits must be addressed. These drugs have a common side effect of causing constipation. The most common medications used are oxybutynin (Ditropan, Oxytrol), tolterodine (Detrol), and hyoscyamine (Levsin). Hopefully, you will elect to work on your child’s potty habits prior to using any of these medications.
Dr. Smith is board certified and he has authored or co-authored many articles, papers, chapters, and books in Urology and Pediatric Urology. His research has been presented throughout the world. Dr. Smith’s dedication to helping children with urologic problems inspired him to establish PottyMD.