Elementary schools need a lesson in bathroom breaks

Kids don't give up only naps after kindergarten. Moving on to first grade often means less access to go to the bathroom -- which can lead to unnecessary accidents or other urination problems.

However, better training for teachers about children's normal and abnormal bathroom needs could help kids with their voiding, or urinating, practices, according to a University of Iowa Health Care study based on surveys of public elementary school teachers. The study, which appears in the September issue of the Journal of Urology, is believed to be the first to query teachers on the topic of young students and bathroom access.

Children spend about half of their waking hours at school, so how much bathroom access they have is an important issue, said Christopher Cooper, M.D., UI associate professor of urology and the study's principal investigator.

"Pediatric voiding problems are fairy common and can be socially devastating for children. However, very little seems to be known about it from the teacher standpoint," Cooper said. "Most teachers aren't trained to recognize that it can be a health or medical problem."

The researchers sent 1,000 21-question surveys to public elementary teachers in Iowa. Nearly 47 percent of the surveys (467) were returned. In their responses, only about one in five (18 percent) teachers said they ever had received instructional information about abnormal voiding or bowel problems in children.

However, the researchers found that teachers with more classroom experience had a better idea of what could be a bladder problem. These teachers also were more likely to involve a school nurse when children had bladder or stooling accidents.

Nearly 80 percent of teachers reported set times for student bathroom breaks, and one-third of the teachers said children are asked to wait if they request a bathroom break in the middle of class.

Kindergarten teachers were the most likely to give free access to the bath

Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa

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