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How to Recognize and Treat Belly Button Infections

A navel (or belly button) is what’s left of your former umbilical cord, the cord that connected you to your mother before you were born. It comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. Maybe yours is an innie (concave) or an outie (convex).

Your belly button doesn’t get much attention once it heals after birth. But like any part of your skin or body, it can get infected. Usually, belly button infections aren’t too serious, but your health care provider should look at them. 

Here is what you should know about recognizing, treating and preventing belly button infections.

Types of belly button infections

Your belly button is a sensitive area that contains a lot of small folds. 

“These fold areas can trap moisture, dirt and debris,” said Samia Kadri, a family nurse practitioner with Banner Health. “This moist, warm area is the perfect spot for fungus and yeast to flourish.”

The most common types of belly button infections include:

  • Bacterial infections: These occur when harmful bacteria enter the belly button and multiply, leading to an infection. Staphylococcus aureus (staph infection) and Streptococcus species (strep infection) are the most common causes.
  • Fungal/yeast infections: Fungus – including yeast – can cause belly button infections, especially in warm and moist environments. An overgrowth of yeast (usually the Candida yeast species) can occur anywhere on your body, including your vagina, penis, mouth, throat and belly button.  

Common causes of belly button infections

While bacteria, fungi and yeast all thrive in moist, dark environments, several factors can fuel the fire and lead to a belly button infection. These include:

  1. Poor hygiene: Failing to clean the belly button regularly can lead to the buildup of dirt, sweat and dead skin cells, creating an environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive.
  2. Piercings: If you recently bedazzled your belly button with a navel peircing, it can become infected because of the tiny wound created during the piercing process.
  3. Obesity: People with extra fat folds may experience belly button infections more frequently because of the accumulation of moisture and bacteria in the stomach area.
  4. Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes have a higher risk of developing infections, including in the belly button, due to weakened immune systems and impaired blood flow.
  5. Sweating: Especially in hot weather or during exercise, excessive sweat may help bacteria and yeast grow in the belly button.
  6. Laparoscopic surgery: If a surgery wound on or near the belly button isn’t kept clean and dry, it can lead to infection.

Signs and symptoms of belly button infections

One of the first things you may notice is smelly discharge and redness in or around your belly button.

“If your belly button looks redder than usual, a bit swollen and there is purulent discharge (or pus) coming from the belly button that has a foul smell, you could have an infection,” Kadri said.

Other signs to watch out for include:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Itching
  • Fever 

Treatment for belly button infections

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above and think you may have a belly button infection, see your health care provider. They can recommend steps you can take at home to treat an infection and may prescribe you particular medications or ointments.

“Mild bacterial or fungal/yeast infections are treated with topical rubbing alcohol, antibiotic ointments or antifungals,” Kadri said. “If the infection is more widespread, oral and topical medicines may be necessary.”

During treatment, gently wash the belly button with mild soap and water daily and make sure it is dried completely, as moisture helps bacteria and yeast to grow.

Prevention tips

Preventing a belly button infection is easier than dealing with one. Follow these simple guidelines to reduce your risk:

  • Keep clean: “Regularly clean the inner folds of the belly button with mild soap and water to remove dirt and debris, especially during bathing and showering,” Kadri said. After cleaning, gently pat your belly button dry to get rid of moisture.
  • Avoid piercing infections: If you plan to get your belly button pierced, make sure it is done by a trained professional using sterile instruments. Follow the aftercare instructions provided by your piercer. [Check out 10 Dos and Don’ts Before Getting Pierced.]
  • Manage weight and diabetes: If you have diabetes and are overweight, work with your health care provider to manage these conditions effectively.
  • Stay cool and dry: Keep the abdominal area as dry as possible during hot weather or exercise.
  • Wear cotton clothing: Wear breathable, cotton clothing that allows air circulation around the belly button.


Belly button infections can be bothersome but are preventable and easy to treat. With a few simple steps, you can keep your belly button healthy and lower your risk of infections.

Always consult your health care provider if you have questions about your health. Find a Banner Health specialist near you. 

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