Checking for Infection With Circumcision

Updated February 15, 2019
infected circumcision

A common question concerned parents often ask their pediatrician is, "How do I know if my baby's circumcision is infected?" Circumcision infections are rare. However, you do want to be aware of the signs that an infection may be present.

Circumcision Infection Signs and Symptoms

In answering the question "how do I know if an infant circumcision is infected," you'll need to pay attention to any changes in the appearance of your son's penis after the procedure. Call the pediatrician if you notice the following symptoms:

Increasing Redness

Redness around the tip of the penis is normal the first day or so after the circumcision, but if the redness worsens after several days, call your doctor.

Discharge Is Present

If you notice any discharge, a yellow coating, pus or pus-filled blisters, this is a sign of an infection. You should contact your physician immediately.

Swelling Intensifies

Some swelling around the tip of the penis after the circumcision is normal, but if it persists or worsens, this could be a sign of infection.

Fever Occurs

If your baby develops a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, this is typically a sign of infection.

Baby Has Trouble Urinating

mother changing diapers

Your infant should continue urinating normally, but if you notice your baby has not urinated in over 8 hours, contact your doctor.

Plastibell Device Doesn't Fall Off

If your doctor used a Plastibell device (a plastic ring), it should fall off within 14 days. It is okay if it falls off early, but if it is on longer than 14 days, talk to your doctor. Never try to pull it off; this may cause bleeding.

Prolonged Bleeding

It is not unusual for your baby to have a small amount of bleeding after the procedure, but if there is continued bleeding or you find a blood stain the size of a quarter or bigger in your baby's diaper, you should call the doctor.


If discoloration of the penis occurs, it could be the sign of infection or insufficient blood flow and you should make your doctor aware.

Foul Smell

There may be infection if there is a foul smelling, cloudy drainage or oozing that is coming from the tip of his penis.

What Should You Look For

You should look for the obvious signs such as bleeding, swelling, pus, and fever, but also keep an eye on your baby's demeanor. If your baby is not acting like himself and is unusually irritable, agitated, fussy or crying excessively and simply cannot be comforted, he may be experiencing pain from the circumcision.

How Often and For How Long Should You Check for Signs of Infection

It will take 7 to 10 days for the circumcision to heal, so you will want to watch for signs of infection during that time until the penis is fully healed. To care for your baby and help prevent infection, you'll want to change your baby's diaper often and fit it loosely so there is no pressure on the penis. Therefore, during every diaper change, you should check for signs of infection. Clean the penis and change the bandage at each diaper change so you can evaluate how the penis is healing each and every time. Apply a dab of petroleum jelly to the penis to avoid irritation and eliminate the chance the penis will stick to the bandage or later to the diaper. If your baby has a bowel movement and there is stool on his penis, gently clean it with warm water.

If There Are Signs, What Should You Do?

First, contact the doctor about your concerns that the circumcision may be infected. In the meantime, there are a few things you can try which include:

  • Placing a layer of petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment on the incision line and the head of the penis to help ease the pain.
  • If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure for a few minutes or place some ointment on the area.
  • If your baby is crying and appears to be in pain, do not give pain meds (such as Tylenol) until you speak with the doctor.
  • Call 911 if your baby is lethargic, pale, cold, or has experienced large blood loss.

What Does Normal Circumcision Healing Look Like?

The area of the circumcision incision will be red and tender but should improve by the third day. It is not unusual to have a small amount of bleeding or some swelling of the penis while it heals. The penis may develop a clear crust, which is normal, that will resolve after a few days. The scab at the incision line typically comes off in 7 to 10 days, and this is when the penis should be fully healed.

Circumcision Debate

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether circumcision is necessary; therefore, it is best parents are well-informed of the benefits and risks before making their decision. Some parents may be in favor of circumcision because of the number of medical benefits associated with it, and there are parents that will have their sons circumcised due to religious, social, or cultural reasons. There are also parents who simply do not feel circumcision is needed due to personal or cultural beliefs. While circumcision is not essential to your baby's health and the risks involved are typically low, parents should ultimately choose what they feel is best for their son.

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Checking for Infection With Circumcision