What Causes Balanitis In Children And How To Treat It?

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Balanitis refers to inflammation of the head or glans of the penis. Balanitis in children is mostly self-resolving within two to three days. The condition may occur at any age but is frequently seen in boys below the age of five years as they won’t retract or clean under the foreskin of a penis.

Conservative interventions may be helpful for managing balanitis in most children. However, recurrent balanitis may require surgical intervention, such as circumcision.

This post tells you about the causes, symptoms, treatment, complications, and prevention methods for balanitis in children.

Causes Of Balanitis In Children

Children are more likely to develop chemical balanitis, a mild redness due to irritation from soaps or other irritants. Approximately 5% of boys younger than five years may develop infectious balanitis.

Balanitis may occur in children due to the following reasons (1).

  • Pulling or touching the foreskin frequently
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal (yeast) infections
  • Poor hygiene, resulting in the build-up of smegma (secretion of oil glands under the foreskin) that may irritate the skin
  • Irritation from urine
  • Irritation from soaps, shower gels, and other products
  • Phimosis (tight foreskin)
  • Skin problems, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Diabetes may increase the risk

Balanitis is usually seen in uncircumcised boys, meaning those who have an intact foreskin. Circumcised boys may develop inflammation of the foreskin known as posthitis with similar etiologic factors.

Symptoms And Signs Of Balanitis In Children

Balanitis may cause penile discomfort and itching in children. You may also notice redness and inflammation of the glans. The foreskin may appear tight and may not be able to retract adequately in uncircumcised boys.

The common symptoms and signs of balanitis may include (2):

  • Erythema (redness)
  • Whitish spots
  • Swelling and soreness
  • Itching
  • Thick fluid build-up
  • Foul smell
  • Increased tightness of the foreskin
  • Pain during urination
  • Fever

Fever is one of the common signs of infectious balanitis. You may seek medical care if your son has symptoms of balanitis since the infection may spread to the urinary tract. Usually, balanitis does not cause severe problems in children. However, repeated infections may warrant surgical treatments.

Complications Of Balanitis In Children

In rare cases, balanitis may occur with posthitis, an inflammation of the foreskin. If balanitis and posthitis occur together, it is called Balanoposthitis. Recurrent balanitis with phimosis (tight foreskin) may cause phimosis to last longer if balanitis is left untreated. It may also increase the risk of frequent urinary tract infections (3).

Although most cases may resolve within a few days without any treatment, recurrent balanitis may cause severe pain, penile discharge, and scarring in children. Scarring may interfere with urine flow and cause discomfort. You may seek medical care if your child has balanitis more than once.

Prevention Of Balanitis In Children

Ensuring good personal hygiene may help prevent balanitis in children. The preventive measures may include the following.

  • Do not frequently retract the foreskin.
  • Keep the penile area as dry and clean as possible.
  • Wash with lukewarm water regularly.
  • Avoid soaps, gels, and other products that may irritate the skin.

Parents may ensure penile hygiene for young boys. You may also teach your child to keep the area clean from an early age. Speak to a doctor to learn more about good penile hygiene.

Diagnosis Of Balanitis In Children

Symptoms and physical examination of the penis could help diagnose balanitis in children. Additional tests are often ordered to exclude the diagnosis of certain infections that may cause similar symptoms. Bacterial or fungal infections are often diagnosed by analyzing urine samples or swabs from the secretions present on the penis.

Treatments For Balanitis In Children

Most cases of balanitis can be managed conservatively without any surgical procedures. Conservative management may include taking adequate hygiene measures and avoiding irritants. The other treatment options may include the following (1).

1. Medications

Antibiotics oral or topical antibiotic creams are prescribed for bacterial infections. Fungal infections are treated with topical antifungal creams. Steroid creams are often prescribed to reduce the severity of symptoms.

The condition usually improves within a few days of treatment, but you may have to complete the full treatment course to avoid recurrence.

2. Balanitis surgery

Children may have a second episode of infection if the earlier infection is not treated properly. Failure to ensure good hygiene could also increase the risk of another bout of infectious balanitis. Surgical treatment is chosen if the child has a recurrent infection and does not respond to other treatment options, such as medications. Circumcision, the removal of the foreskin, is the surgical treatment for balanitis.

Balanitis in children mainly occurs due to poor hygiene or certain infections and usually resolves by itself within a day or two. However, if the symptoms persist and cause irritation, it is advised to consult the doctor for a proper diagnosis. If left untreated, balanitis might lead to severe urinary tract infection. Teach your boys to regularly clean the penile area with lukewarm water and keep the area as dry as possible to avoid complications.

Infographic: Identify And Cure Balanitis In Children

Balanitis can be uncomfortable, and as a parent, you may like to resolve the problem soon. Take a look at the following infographic, which provides the following information about balanitis.

  • What causes balanitis
  • Symptoms of balanitis
  • Preventive measures for balanitis
identify and cure balanitis in children [Infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Balanitis or inflammation of the head or glans of the penis in children may occur due to a reaction from soaps or other irritants.
  • Other factors such as infections and skin problems may also contribute to the swelling, itching, or other symptoms of Balanitis.
  • Recurrent Balanitis may cause urinary tract infection.
  • Mild symptoms may resolve in a few days, but severe ones may require medicines or medical treatment.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Balanitis; National Health Service
2. Balanitis; DermNet NZ
3. Balanitis In Children; London Children’s Surgery
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Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made...
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Maria Carmela Villania-Mamauag

(MD, DPPS)
Maria Carmela Villania-Mamauag is a board certified diplomate of the Philippine Pediatric Society with a degree of Doctor of Medicine from Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City and a Bachelor in Science in Psychology from Saint Louis University, Baguio City which was augmented by a year of Bachelor in Science in Family Life and Child development at the University...
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