If your child has been complaining about irritation or pain on the genital area, the chances are he has an infection known as “Balanitis’. Balanitis is a very common infection in boys and can be treated easily. To more about this condition, read this article. Find out what is balanitis, its symptoms, and how it can be treated.
What is Balanitis?
Balanitis is the irritation and inflammation of the foreskin and is mostly seen in uncircumcised boys. The inflammation is relatively mild in most situations. Balanitis in children can be caused by a simple irritation or it can be a result of an infection.
Causes of Balanitis in a Child
Boys who have an intact foreskin are at a higher risk of this infection. However, most cases of balanitis are mild. Most children only get chemical balanitis which turns the area red and is associated with the foreskin releasing. Only about 5% of boys under 5 years of age would be severely affected by it.
A few common causes for balanitis in children are:
- Irritation from shower gels, soaps, or other products.
- Poor hygiene. This leads to the build-up of smegma under the foreskin.
- Irritation caused by urine that did not dry after peeing.
- Skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
- Fungal or bacterial infections.
- Irritation due to children touching or pulling the foreskin too much.
Though balanitis is common in children with an intact foreskin, children who have been circumcised can also get the infection from the inflammation of the glans. When both the glans and the foreskin are affected, the condition is called the ‘balanoposthitis’.
Boys with diabetes are more likely to develop this condition. It can also occur in boys who have skin conditions like eczema. Balanitis can also be associated with ‘phimosis’, a condition that happens when the foreskin remains too tight to retract. It usually becomes retractable and separates from the glans between 2 and 6 years of age. Balanitis usually occurs before it has retracted or when the foreskin remains tight for a long time. Balanitis can affect any boy but is particularly common in children under 5 years of age.
Symptoms of Balanitis in Babies and Kids
Balanitis symptoms can be recognized easily but they can be very uncomfortable. Most boys would experience penile discomfort. The foreskin may also appear tight. Some of the most common symptoms of balanitis are:
- Pain while urinating
- Whitish spots
- Unpleasant smell
- A build-up of thick fluid
- Tight foreskin
You should definitely take your child to the doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your boy is experiencing discomfort or soreness. Your doctor would be able to find out the cause of these symptoms and provide treatment accordingly. If an infection is responsible for the symptoms above, then there is a risk of the infection spreading further into the urinary tract. You may also notice other symptoms like fever.
Treatment Options for Balanitis in Children
In most cases, balanitis can be easily diagnosed from examining the penis and looking out for the symptoms mentioned above. However, in some cases, doctors may suggest additional tests in order to check if its balanitis or something else. Healthcare providers might take a sample of any discharge or urine which will be taken to the lab to check for fungal or bacterial infections that could be responsible for the symptoms.
Most cases of balanitis in infants and little boys would not require surgery and can be managed conservatively. It is very important to stay hygienic—keep the area very clean, and it is important to avoid retracting the foreskin frequently. The penis should always be kept dry and clean and it should be washed with lukewarm water. Using soap and other such products is not suggested to avoid irritation on the delicate skin of the area. Before getting dressed, the penis should be dried properly and carefully. It should also be properly dried after peeing. The area underneath the foreskin could also be dried carefully if the foreskin has retracted, but if the foreskin has not retracted, it is best to avoid that area. You should also wash your child’s clothes with antiseptic in order to prevent further spread. If antiseptic is not available, then soak the clothes for 10-15 minutes in saltwater before washing thoroughly.
Parents must ensure that the area is cared for properly and should teach their children to take care of their bodies properly as they grow older and to continue with good hygiene practices. Balanitis symptoms can be relieved by making sure that the penis is always kept clean. Good hygienic practices would also help reduce the chances of the infection coming back again in the future.
Occasionally, healthcare providers might suggest topical creams or antibiotics. Different balanitis pediatric treatment options would be suggested based on the cause of the irritation. For example, doctors may suggest antifungal creams to treat yeast infections while antibiotics would be used to get rid of the bacterial infection causing balanitis in baby boys. To soothe the symptoms, a steroid cream may be recommended as part of the treatment.
If the doctor has prescribed medicines, then it is important to complete the course even when the symptoms begin reducing after a few days. Treatment for balanitis in 5-year-old boys and below are usually very effective and when paired with good personal hygiene, the symptoms can be relieved very quickly.
Balanitis would not be severe in most children and it can be cured with little treatment and personal hygiene. However, if the condition is very problematic, circumcision would be necessary. The surgery can reduce the chances of the condition coming back again in the future though it cannot entirely eliminate the risks of infection and inflammation. Practising good personal hygiene is important to avoid irritation or infection.
How to Prevent Balanitis in Children
The following procedures can be followed in order to prevent the infection:
- By maintaining hygiene: All the clothes must be washed thoroughly. It is best to use natural clothing materials like cotton that would not irritate the infected foreskin. Children who are sensitive to soaps can avoid its usage. The genital area must always be kept clean.
- By making your child wear clean undergarments: Make sure your child wears clean undergarments and use only dried garments instead of wet and moist ones.
- By completing antibiotic dose: If the doctor has prescribed antibiotics then it is important to complete the course to avoid recurrent attacks.
- By changing your baby’s diapers: If you have a baby, make it a point to change his diapers frequently if he has balanitis and even otherwise.
- By drying his skin after bathing: After the child is done bathing, make sure that all the parts of his body are dried thoroughly.
- By using emollients: Emollients are soaps and creams that can help retain moisture on the skin and these can be used if the child is sensitive to soaps.
When to See a Doctor
If you notice the symptoms of balanitis including fever, various signs of infection such as redness, warmth, swelling, or foul-smelling fluid leaking from the child’s penis, or if your child has trouble urinating, then you must check with a doctor. The doctor can help find the reason for these symptoms and manage the condition accordingly. Although the infection is not very serious, it still needs treatment since it can be very uncomfortable for your son. If left untreated, it can lead to various other complications such as scarring. If the symptoms last longer than a few days or if the infection keeps recurring, visit the doctor again as your child may require additional treatment to prevent it.
Balanitis is a common condition and if your son has this infection, there is nothing to worry about. Your child’s healthcare provider can guide you and provide the right treatment for the same. All you have to do is maintain proper hygiene and complete the course of the treatment.