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    Umbilical Cord- Minor Infection

    Updated at February 19th, 2022


    • Umbilicus (navel) has a cloudy discharge or even some dried pus on the surface
    • The navel is also called the belly button or umbilicus
    • The piece of cord that stays on the baby is called the umbilical stump

    Health Information


    • A cloudy discharge usually is from an infection on top of the skin.
    • This can be caused by normal skin bacteria.
    • A small amount of pus may even be present.

    Omphalitis: Serious Complication

    • Definition. Bacterial infection of the umbilical stump with spread to the skin around it. It’s a medical emergency.
    • How Often. 1 out of 200 newborns.
    • Symptoms. Redness spreads around the navel. The area may be tender, swollen and have a foul odor.

    Care Advice

    1. Overview:
      • The belly button will ooze secretions for several days after the cord falls off.
      • Normal secretions are clear or blood tinged mucus.
      • A cloudy discharge is usually a mild infection.
      • This can be from normal skin bacteria.
      • A small amount of pus may be present.
      • Here is some care advice that should help.
    2. Clean the Navel:
      • Clean the navel (belly button) 2 times a day.
      • Use a wet cotton swab or cloth.
      • Clean away any dried secretions or pus.
      • Do this gently to prevent any bleeding.
      • Caution: Don’t use any rubbing alcohol. Reason: Can interfere with healing.
    3. Antibiotic Ointment:
      • If any pus is present, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin.
      • No prescription is needed.
      • Put a tiny amount on the navel.
      • Do this 2 times per day after the area has been cleaned with warm water.
      • Do this for 2 days. After that, use the antibiotic ointment only if you see more pus.
    4. Bathing:
      • Do not use tub baths until the cord falls off. Also the navel should be well healed.
    5. Diapers:
      • Keep the belly button dry to help healing.
      • To provide air contact, keep the diaper folded down. Keep it below the cord and belly button.
    6. What to Expect:
      • With treatment, the cloudy discharge and pus should be gone in 2 to 3 days.
      • The navel should become dry and healed by 7 days.

    Call Your Doctor If

    • Develops a red streak or redness around the belly button
    • Fever occurs
    • Cloudy discharge not gone after 3 days of using this care advice
    • Your baby starts to look or act abnormal
    • You think your baby needs to be seen

    Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP

    Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC

    Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it. The information contained in this handout should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. Listing of any resources does not imply an endorsement.