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Balanitis: How to Care for Your Child

Balanitis occurs in boys of all ages. With proper care it gets better quickly and rarely leads to lasting problems.

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Balanitis is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the head of the penis. Your son may have itching, redness, pain, or discharge at the tip of the penis. Uncircumcised boys may also have a swollen foreskin (this is called balanoposthitis).

Balanitis can be caused by too much or not enough cleaning of the area, diaper rash, detergents and soaps, or allergens. It also can be caused by yeast or bacterial infections, injury, or certain medicines.

The health care provider examined your child and if fluid or pus was leaking from the penis, it may have been sent for examination under a microscope. The health care provider might have prescribed antibiotics or an antifungal medication as an ointment or a medicine to be taken by mouth. Sometimes health care providers recommend a steroid cream to help with itching and irritation. If there is no infection, often you can figure out the cause and help your son avoid whatever is irritating the penis.

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  • Give your son any prescribed medicine and apply any prescribed ointments as directed by the health care provider.

  • To relieve swelling and discomfort, have your son soak in a tub of warm water without soap for 10–20 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of baking soda or salt to the water. Repeat a few times a day.

  • Placing a clean, warm washcloth on the affected area also can help with discomfort.

  • If your son has pain, a medication can help:

    • For children under 6 months, you may give acetaminophen.

    • For children over 6 months, you may give acetaminophen OR ibuprofen, if recommended by your health care provider.

  • Teach your son how to properly clean his penis:

    • If your son is not circumcised, the foreskin should not be forced back more than it naturally goes. If the foreskin does retract, he should gently pull the foreskin back and carefully clean and dry the area.

  • Sexually active boys should avoid sex until treatment is complete.

  • Schedule any follow-up appointments as directed.

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  • To help prevent balanitis from returning, your son should gently wash the area daily with warm water and avoid products that irritate the skin.

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Your son:

  • Does not start to feel better in 3–5 days.

  • Develops a fever.

  • Has bleeding from the penis.

  • Gets better, but then has draining of pus again.

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Your son:

  • Is unable to urinate (pee).

  • Is uncircumcised and his foreskin is stuck below the head of the penis.

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