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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 mild infection from surface bacteria. It usually can be cleared up fairly quickly. 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

    Four times a day, clean the area with rubbing alcohol for several minutes. Use a cotton swab and remove all dried pus or debris. The umbilical area does not have any sensation, so the alcohol won't sting. If the cord is still present, clean underneath it by lifting it up. If the cord has fallen off, pour some alcohol into the depression and remove it after 2 or 3 minutes. It takes that long to kill bacteria. Although using alcohol can delay the separation of the cord by 1 or 2 days, it does prevent cord infections, and that's what is most important.

  • Dryness

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

  • Antibiotic ointment

    If a little pus is present, apply an antibiotic ointment (no prescription needed) 4 times per day after each cleansing.

  • Common mistakes in the treatment of oozing umbilical cord

    Do not put talcum powder on the umbilicus; it can cause irritation and tissue reaction. Ointments should be avoided, because they delay drying and healing.

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 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
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.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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