Balanitis (Child)

Front view of boy's penis, scrotum, and glans.The tip or head of the penis is known as the glans penis. Sometimes the glans can be inflamed or infected. This condition is called balanitis.

Balanitis may be caused by bacteria, fungus, or yeast. It may also be caused by chemicals or medicines. Cleaning the penis too much or too little can also cause balanitis. Babies can develop balanitis when they have diaper rash.

Symptoms of balanitis include pain, redness, and swelling. Fluid may leak from the glans and have a foul odor. The area may itch. In severe cases, it may be hard for the child to urinate. Balanitis caused by bacteria causes the skin to be bright red. Yeast can cause white spots, as well as fluid leaking.

You will first need to clean the area. You may soak the area in warm water to reduce symptoms. Your child’s healthcare provider will prescribe medicine to treat an infection. This may be an antibiotic or antifungal medicine. Hydrocortisone cream may be used to reduce inflammation. Children who are not able to urinate may need a urinary catheter. This is a thin, flexible tube put into the opening of the penis.

Symptoms usually go away 3 to 5 days after treatment is started. If the problem keeps coming back, your child may need to have his foreskin removed. This is called circumcision. Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you more about this procedure if it’s needed.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for your child at home:

  • Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to treat the infection and swelling. Follow all instructions when giving these medicines to your child. Be certain to give all of the medicine as prescribed, even if your child feels better or the symptoms disappear.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after caring for your child’s penis. This is to prevent the spread of infection. Teach your child to wash his hands before and after touching his penis.

  • Have your child soak in a bathtub with clean, warm water and a teaspoon of salt. The water should be deep enough to cover the penis. This will help reduce inflammation. Repeat the soak 2 to 3 times a day, or as advised by your child’s provider.

  • In babies and young children, clean the area daily or as needed. If there is foreskin, gently pull it back from the glans. The foreskin will pull back (retract) only slightly, so don’t force it. Rinse the area with clean water. Use a cotton swab to gently clean any drainage. Don’t use soap, bubble bath oils, or talc powder. They may cause irritation.

  • Teach your child how to clean the area daily.

  • If your child has a foreskin, gently retract it regularly when your child is young. Have older children gently retract their foreskin regularly, even after the infection is cleared. The foreskin will be fully retractable by 10 years of age. If the foreskin becomes trapped in a retracted position, seek medical care right away.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

Special note to parents

If you have any questions or concerns about how to care for your child’s penis, talk with the healthcare provider.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if:

  • Your child has a fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • The foreskin becomes trapped in a retracted position.

  • Your child has trouble urinating

  • You observe signs of infection, such as warmth, redness, swelling, or foul-smelling fluid leaking from the penis.

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.