Balanitis is a condition where the skin around the tip of the penis becomes red, swollen, and uncomfortable. It usually happens in young boys before they become a teenager. It is more common in uncircumcised boys.
Causes of Balanitis:
- Most common is a chemical irritation from urine trapped under the foreskin
- Not cleaning the penis properly
- Strong soaps or chemicals which can irritate the skin
- Tight underwear that can rub
- Allergies. Some children may be allergic to things like soap or laundry detergent
- Fungal or bacterial infections. Infections caused by germs can also result in balanitis
How to prevent balanitis?
Balanitis is usually caused by tiny bits of urine trapped under the foreskin. That means you can stop almost all cases by:
1. Gently pulling back the foreskin as far as it will go (without forcing it) when doing a wee.
2. Dabbing the tip of the penis (glans) with a tissue after passing urine to keep it dry.
3. Keeping it clean so that urine doesn't irritate the sensitive skin. Teach your child to wash their penis gently with warm water every day. Do not try to retract the foreskin to clean under it, if it is still fixed.
Remember, always pull the foreskin back over the tip of the penis (to cover the glans) afterwards!
- Avoid irritants. Do not use soap, bubble bath, or baby wipes as these may irritate the area.
- Emollient. Use a fragrance free moisturiser such as Hydromol, Epaderm or Cetraben instead of soap.
- Stay dry. Make sure to dry the penis properly after washing to prevent moisture building up. If your child wears nappies, they should be changed often.
- Loose underwear. Choose loose fitting underwear made of soft materials like cotton to allow airflow.
- Most cases of balanitis will improve with good hygiene and self care within a few days.
- Your GP may prescribe anti-fungal cream or antibiotics if it seems to be caused by a fungus or bacterial infection.
- In some cases a steroid cream may be prescribed.
- Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and review with them if it is not resolving.
When to Seek Help?
- If symptoms remain or worsen despite proper care
- If signs of infection appear, such as increased redness, pus, or a bad smell
- If your child has difficulty or pain while passing urine
- If your child has a fever, feels unwell, or experiences repeated episodes of balanitis
Help your son stay safe
As your son has a genital problem the doctor or nurse may need to examine him. This can be a good opportunity for you to talk to your child about staying safe. The NSPCC offer an excellent online resource for this called talk Pants.