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Umbilical Cord, Oozing

Why is the umbilical cord oozing?

If the umbilicus (navel) is oozing or moist or has some dried pus on the surface, your baby probably has a low-grade infection from surface bacteria. It usually can be cleared up fairly quickly. Any infection of the umbilicus must be treated with care because of the risk of spread to the liver or the abdomen.

Oozing can happen after the cord has already fallen off, but more often the cord is still attached.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Cleansing the umbilicus

    Clean away the dried secretions at least twice a day. Use a wet cotton swab or damp cloth. Then dry carefully. You will need to push down on the skin around the cord to get at this area. You may also need to bend the cord a little to get underneath it.

    Caution: don’t use rubbing alcohol. (Exception: instructed by your healthcare provider to do so)

  • Antibiotic ointment

    If a little pus is present, apply a tiny amount of antibiotic ointment (no prescription needed) 2 times per day after each cleansing. Stop after 2 days.

  • Dryness

    Air exposure and dryness help healing, so be sure to keep the diaper folded down below the cord area.

  • Dry Cord Care

    After the low grade infection is cleared up, return to Dry Cord care. Normal cords don’t need any special treatment. Just keep them dry (called natural drying).

  • Common mistakes in the treatment of oozing umbilical cord

    Do not put talcum powder on the umbilicus. It can cause irritation and tissue reaction.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY if:

  • Red streaks develop on the normal skin surrounding the navel.
  • Pimples or blisters appear around the navel.
  • Your baby's rectal temperature is over 100.4°F (38.0°C) or under 98°F (36.0°C).
  • Your baby acts sick.

Call during office hours if:

  • The umbilical area is not completely dry and clean after 2 days of this treatment.
  • 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: 2014-06-10
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.
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