Even school nurses need help sometimes

31st May 1996 at 01:00
"Dinna Fret If The Bed Is Wet - Open Your Eyes and Your Heart" is the slogan Karen Doherty chose for a prize-winning poster on the problems children have with enuresis, involuntary bedwetting.

Karen, aged 11, who is in the top class at St Margaret's primary in South Queensferry, took part in a competition in primary schools in and around the city. Her poster was chosen out of 500 and will be used over the next two years in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Most children grow out of bedwetting by the age of five. But one in seven still have a problem by that age, and one in 14 at 10. One in 100 15-year-olds wets the bed. More boys than girls are affected.

"I knew that people wet the bed, but I didn't know it was such a problem, " Karen says. Before designing and drawing her poster, she had listened to a class talk by the school nurse as part of a campaign by the Sick Children's Trust.

Linda Morrow, Edinburgh Healthcare Trust's continence adviser, recalls: "The nurses were concerned that children who did have the problem would become the butt of jokes from their friends."

They broached the subject by asking the class's help with a problem the trust was having in its campaign. No one had come up with a suitable poster. "Why ask adults? Why not give the children a chance?" Ms Morrow concluded.

Mary Robertson, St Margaret's headteacher, says: "It was very sensible and relevant. It is important that children get a chance to discuss bedwetting before they leave primary school. They had to work out how best to get their message across."

In Karen's poster a small boy sits head in hands below a window through which a light shines. "It's like a tunnel and seeing the light at the end of it. It's saying that it's going to get better," she explained. "At any age if you wet the bed it's going to be very embarrassing."

Before the nurse's talk Karen thought that bedwetting happened "because people couldn't be bothered to get up to go to the toilet". Now she knows it can be caused because "the bladder is not telling the brain there is a need to go".

Bedwetters are often found out by less than understanding schoolmates on trips or on overnight stays with friends. Confiding in a friend may be another giveaway. "If you tell one person it would get around and you would be called names," Karen says. The nurses' talks will reduce the amount of teasing. But as Karen adds: "It's the parents who need educating."

As Karen's poster suggests, they should contact their local GP or school nurse.

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