Pollakiuria is also known as benign idiopathic urinary frequency. It refers to frequent daytime urination in children with no specific cause. Although it’s most common in children 3 to 5 years old, teenagers can develop it, too.

Read on to learn more about what causes pollakiuria, how it’s diagnosed, and how you can help your child manage their symptoms.

After age 3, your child will urinate about 12 times a day. As they get older and their bladder grows, they’ll urinate anywhere from four to six times a day.

The most telling symptom of pollakiuria is that your child will suddenly feel the urge to urinate during the day a lot more than is considered typical, but will not actually wet themselves. For example, your child may go to the bathroom once every half hour or less. In some cases, they may need to go up to 40 times in a single day. They may find that only a little bit of urine comes out each time they go.

Doctors don’t always know what causes pollakiuria to happen. In many cases, your child may be feeling stressed out by a big change in their lives, such as going to school for the first time. Any major event at home, at school, or in their personal life can trigger an episode of pollakiuria, too. These are known as psychogenic triggers.

Possible triggers include:

  • moving into a new home
  • getting in trouble at school
  • being bullied
  • not getting good grades
  • having a new family member, such as a recently born sibling or a new stepparent
  • losing a close family member or friend
  • parents divorcing or feeling worried about parents divorcing

Your child may also feel like they need to go to the bathroom a lot when they know that they won’t be able to get to a bathroom for a while, such as on a road trip, during a test at school, or at an event that takes a long time, such as a church service.

Some possible physical and mental triggers include:

  • nonbacterial cystitis
  • changes in chemicals in the body, such as eating more salt
  • inflammation in the urethra or bladder
  • increased levels of calcium in the urine
  • tic disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome
  • anxiety disorders

Some doctors believe that pollakiuria can be triggered by your child’s heightened awareness of their bladder. Your bladder is constantly being filled up with urine produced by your kidneys, which causes it to expand. Normally, you won’t notice the feeling of urine collecting in your bladder until it can’t expand anymore. But if your child has pollakiuria, they are more aware than usual of their bladder filling up, which can make them feel like they need to go to the bathroom every time they feel their bladder expanding. Often, no trigger at all is found.

Doctors do know that pollakiuria isn’t caused by any underlying condition in the urinary tract. Because of this, your child probably has pollakiuria — and not another urinary condition — if you can check the following symptoms off this list:

  • Your child doesn’t feel any pain when they urinate.
  • Your child’s urine isn’t smelly, dark, or an abnormal color.
  • Your child urinates a lot more during the day than during the night.
  • Your child isn’t urinating into their underwear or having trouble holding it.
  • Your child isn’t drinking a larger amount of fluids than before.
  • Your child isn’t passing waste any differently than before.
  • Your child doesn’t appear to have a fever, rash, infection, or other symptom of an underlying condition.
  • Your child hasn’t lost a lot of weight recently.

If your child starts urinating frequently, see their pediatrician to rule out any other conditions that might be causing them to do so.

First, your child’s doctor will do a full physical examination to make sure there aren’t any other symptoms of other conditions. They’ll ask you for a full history of your child’s health leading up to the time when they started urinating frequently to see if any major changes indicate a possible health condition. They’ll also ask if your child recently started taking any new medications.

Your child’s doctor will also check their body for signs that may suggest issues with the kidneys, genitals, or bowels, as these can all affect how often your child urinates.

They will also run tests to rule out any other conditions causing your child to urinate a lot. This includes:

Urinalysis. Your child will be asked to urinate into a cup or onto a dipstick. The urine may be sent to a lab for testing or checked in the doctor’s office. This test can make sure your child doesn’t have diabetes, kidney conditions like nephrotic syndrome, or a bladder infection.

Blood tests. These are only occasionally necessary. Your child’s doctor will use a small needle to take some of their blood and send it to a lab for testing. This test can also rule out diabetes, kidney, and bladder conditions.

Your child likely won’t need medication to treat pollakiuria.

Your doctor may refer your child to counseling or therapy if anxiety or another mental health condition is causing pollakiuria.

Helping your child learn to not go to the bathroom every time they feel the urge is an effective way to help resolve pollakiuria.

You can

  • Give your child small, fun chores to do so that they can focus on a task.
  • Do one of their favorite activities when they feel like they need to urinate a lot, such as reading a book, watching a TV show, or playing a video game.
  • Avoid keeping track of how many times your child urinates and telling them about it. Increasing your child’s awareness of how much they urinate can make them feel more anxious and make them urinate more.

First, make sure your child knows that nothing’s wrong: They’re not sick and there are no problems with their body. It’s important that they don’t feel bad about needing to urinate a lot.

Instead, let them know that nothing bad will happen if they don’t urinate every time they feel the urge, but that if they need to go, they can. You may be able to help your child get in the habit of waiting longer to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, though, focusing on the issue can make it worse. Then it may be best to let them go to the bathroom when they want, while reassuring them that the urge will get less frequent with time.

Talk privately with your child’s teachers, babysitters, relatives, and anyone else who helps take care of them. Everyone who spends time with your child should help them feel safe, comfortable, and assured that they don’t need to urinate so often, while at the same time allowing them to go if they feel they need to.

There aren’t any complications associated with pollakiuria. See your doctor if your child suddenly has pain when they urinate, starts wetting their bed if they did not previously, or feels extremely thirsty all the time.

If your child’s doctor finds any conditions causing them to urinate a lot, such as diabetes, they likely need treatment right away. Untreated diabetes or long-term infections of the bladder and kidneys can cause permanent damage to your child’s body.

An episode of pollakiuria can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. It can also come back every few months or years, even if there isn’t a clear cause or trigger in your child’s life.

In many cases, your child may stop urinating so much once you’ve helped them feel comfortable not going to the bathroom every time they feel the urge. Sometimes, if everyone has been focusing on your child’s frequent urination, dropping the issue for a time can help. Pollakiuria is often triggered by worrying, uncertainty, or anxiety, so making sure your child feels comfortable at home or at school can help them resolve their feelings of needing to go to the bathroom a lot.

Q:

Does pollakiuria only affect children, or can it develop in adults, too?

A:

The type of frequent urination discussed here happens mostly in children, though adults can also have times when they have the urge to urinate more often than usual. Urinary frequency in adults is more likely to have a physical cause. If you notice you have frequent urination lasting more than a couple of days, or accompanied by other symptoms, talk with your doctor about possible causes.

Karen Gill, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.