A crisis for our bladders

The Pediatric Insider

© 2012 Roy Benaroch, MD

OK, listen up, people: you have to pee, at least every once in a while.

I know, I know. In elementary school, your teacher won’t let you leave class. In middle school, there isn’t enough time between classes. And in high school, well, I guess the thinking is one wouldn’t be caught dead using a toilet or something.

What happens if you don’t empty your bladder? To put in simply, Mr. Bladder doesn’t like staying full all day. Like any other muscle, if you keep it under stress it will get thick and bulky—and that’s a problem for bladders. Thick, bulky bladders can’t empty well. They squeeze too hard, and pinch off the tube that leads out. So when you finally do try to pee, you’ll get maybe just a little out. Not emptying your bladder isn’t good.

I see kids of every age in my office, every week, with these kinds of bladder issues. Running to the bathroom at the last minute, having little accidents (sometimes with laughter or coughing), pain with urination, or a feeling that you have to urinate very frequently—all of these symptoms are most often caused by a habit of not urinating frequently or completely enough. Sometimes, recurring urinary tract infections can happen, too. If you’re in the habit of holding it like a camel, you’re heading for trouble. There’s even a medical name for this: “dysfunctional voiding syndrome.”

So what should you do if you or your child is having these symptoms? Most importantly, make sure there’s unhurried time for complete bladder emptying at least every couple of hours. Don’t rush! Little kids might need something to distract them to slow them down, like a special video game that’s only played on the potty. Older children need to change their mindset: you don’t urinate just long enough to relieve the pressure. You should urinate until you’re completely done—and, to help make sure, you should probably relax and try to urinate again after you think you’re done the first time.

Schools and teachers need to rethink policies that don’t allow kids private, relaxed time to take care of their business. Four minutes between classes wouldn’t be enough time for even The Flash to get to his locker, run though the building to the one clean bathroom with working sinks, and then get back to class. Policies that keep kids squirming in their seats with their legs crossed are idiotic and unhealthy.

Make your bladder gladder. Take time to pee. Your bladder will thank you!

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