Page header image

Circumcision Care

What is a circumcision?

A circumcision is the removal of the normal male foreskin, or ring of tissue, that covers the head of the penis.

Should my son have a circumcision?

The American Academy of Pediatrics 2012 policy now states that the preventive health benefits of elective circumcision outweigh any risk of the procedure. Parents need to decide whether circumcision is in the best interests of their male newborn. The benefits are a lower risk of some urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. Discuss the issue with your family and healthcare provider before your baby is born.

What are the symptoms?

The incision is red and tender at first. The tenderness should be minimal by the third day. The scab at the incision line comes off in 7 to 10 days. If a Plastibell ring was used, it should fall off by 14 days (10 days on the average). While it cannot fall off too early, don't pull it off because you could cause bleeding.

Any cuts, scrapes, or scabs on the head of the penis may normally heal with yellowish-colored skin if your baby has been jaundiced. This bilirubin in healing tissue is commonly mistaken for an infection or pus.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Plastibell ring type

    Gently cleanse the area with water 2 times a day or whenever it becomes soiled with stool. Soap is usually unnecessary. A small amount of petroleum jelly should be applied to the incision line once a day to keep it soft during healing. If the incision seems to be causing any pain, also cover it with an ointment.

  • Incision type (no plastic ring is present)

    Remove the dressing (which is usually gauze with petroleum jelly) with warm compresses 24 hours after the circumcision was done. Often the gauze has already fallen off on its own. Then care for the area as described for the Plastibell.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY if your child has been circumcised recently and:

  • The urine comes out in dribbles.
  • The head of the penis turns blue or black.
  • The incision line bleeds more than a few drops.
  • The circumcision looks infected.
  • Your baby develops a fever.
  • Your baby is acting sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • The circumcision looks abnormal to you.
  • The Plastibell ring does not fall off within 14 days. (Note: It can't fall off too early.)
  • The Plastibell ring starts moving in the wrong direction.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-06-06
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
Page footer image