Belly Button Infection: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Table Of Contents

Do bacteria and yeast cause belly button infection? What are some of their symptoms and which are some of the treatments you can opt for? Can newborn babies and adults get these infections? 

An infected belly button is a relatively common problem that affects many people especially those who have piercings or keep poor navel hygiene. This is worsened by the fact that “being a dark, warm and moist area, the navel provides a favorable environment for the growth of microorganism like bacteria and fungi” [].

Furthermore, regular touching and poor hygiene are known to transfer and encourage the growth of the microorganisms responsible for these infections.


The symptoms that will be shown when you have an infection will occur in stages and vary depending on what causes it. For instance, bacteria might have slightly different signs when compared to fungal infections.

Furthermore, different signs might show up at different stages if the infection is not dealt with immediately. We are going to mention the general symptoms. Later, while looking at the various causes, we will give specific signs and symptoms that will be associated with that specific cause.

Some of the common signs and symptoms include

  • Pain, tenderness, and warmth
  • Itching (tingling or burning) sensation, redness and/or skin color changes
  • Abscess – “a painful collection of pus, usually caused by a bacterial infection” []
  • Swelling (could be a small or large swelling covering the whole navel area)
  • The discharge that could be green, yellow, gray, or brown, which often has a bad odor (smelly substance)
  • Stomach upset, vomiting, dizziness, and fever especially if the infection spreads
  • Bleeding

These are some of the common signs to watch out for. When you notice any of the sign, ensure you begin treating it.

What causes them

While looking at the causes, we will focus on what actually causes (the harmful microorganism involve and not how it occurred. So what are some of the common causes of navel infection?

Yeast infection

Yeast (candidiasis) in human beings is caused by over 20 different species of candida with the Candida albicans being the most common one. They affect various parts of the body especially those that have skin folds, are warm, dark and moist such as in between fingers and toes, under breasts, in the groin area, navel, etc.

Of course, the dark, moist and warm environment provided by the navel give a perfect environment for growth fungal infection.

Other factors such as tight-fitting clothing, poor hygiene, use of antibiotics, warm weather, pregnancy (common in women while pregnant), some medications (e.g. steroids), after surgery, and a weakened immunity system due to disease such as diabetes, HIV AIDS, cancer treatments, etc. often increase the risk of having yeast infection.

Furthermore, infants (in babies), those obese, those who have inflammatory disorders or those who work in wet conditions tend to suffer from this fungal attacks more often.


Some of the common symptoms to look out for include itchy rashes, reddish-purple patches around your navel, scaling and flaking, soreness, white or yellow substance over affected areas” and “creamy satellite pustules at margins of affected areas (pimples filled with pus)” []. Occasionally, bleeding might occur especially if you scratch the area, which will be itchy, and the discharge might be malodorous.


Belly button yeast infection diagnosis is by physical inspection of the rash which if it is suspected to be the likely cause, a swab is taken and sent to the laboratory for testing where general tests can confirm presence a fungus while specific ones will identify it is candidiasis. This will make treatment easier.

cure and treatments 

Once tests have confirmed you have the yeast infection on your navel, keep good hygiene by washing your navel well and drying it. Since sugar aids in yeast growth, reduce its consumption. The obese should manage weight and go for loose absorbent clothing.

Finally, to cure or treat it, an antifungal, most probably a cream, powder or lotion will be prescribed by your doctor to treat it. Unless candida has spread into your body, oral antifungal might not be necessary.

Strep and Staph Bacterial infections 

This bacterial infection is the other common possible cause of infected navel where two bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Streptococcus pyogenes (strep) are commonly blamed.

The navel environment coupled with poor hygiene (touching with dirty hands), sweat, dead skin deposits, cuts, sebaceous cysts, and piercings can make your navel susceptible to bacterial infections.  Furthermore, scratching (due to yeast), the wound after tummy tucks, laparoscopy or surgery around the area can create open sores thus make it easy for bacteria entry.

When your navel is infected with bacteria, some of the symptoms you expect to have include redness, itchy bumps, abscess, cellulitis, some pain around your umbilicus, and smelly “chunky discharge is usually yellowish, greenish or greyish in color” [].

Mild bacterial cases on the navel can be managed by cleaning with saline solution and warm water and dry the place well. If the infection is a bit more serious, antibiotic creams or oral antibiotics might be prescribed. Severe cases accompanied by fever require you see a doctor immediately.

Infected belly button piercing  

For those who have piercings on their navel, the piercings could be the cause especially if you do not clean them well. Furthermore, poor aftercare can lead to this problem which could bacterial, fungal infections. Sometimes, one might suffer from allergic reactions to piercing jewelry.

See more on belly button piercing infection including symptoms, causes, bumps, treatment, cleaning and care tips.


Pregnancy does not cause infections. It only increases the risks of getting bacterial and yeast occurring.  A little pain in the navel during pregnancy could be due to stretching of abdominal muscles and skin, uterine pressure or piercing if you have one and not necessarily a sign of infection.

In infant, newborn or toddler

Children, especially newborn babies are prone to navel infection when compared to adults. However, this should not be confused with the normal healing process a time during which, It is very common to have small amounts of clear discharge and some bleeding. This happens mainly during the first two weeks after the placenta has been clipped off. This is part of the normal healing process for the umbilical cord stump.

Good care should be taken for the first 7-21 days after which the stump dries and falls off. Give sponge baths, let the baby have a diaper and a loose T-shirt and do not try to pull it off.

What if it is an infection

Besides normal healing, a baby’s navel can be infected especially if it happens much later especially after it has completely healed (such after 6 months, a year or to your toddler).

Even newborns can have infections and you will know it if the baby cries when you touch it or the skin next to it, foul smell from the stump (pus discharge), a swollen umbilicus, or redness around the stump. These are all signs of umbilical cord infection to watch out for.

They are caused by mainly fungal and bacterial (especially staph) infections if you fail to take good care of the umbilicus. In case of infection, see a pediatric for diagnosis and advice on treatment.

In adults

Adults too are can have an infected navel. When it happens, they are going to have some of the various signs and symptoms we have already discussed. In adults should not be ignored since it can spread or cause blood infection in case of a bacterial – sepsis can occur.

How to clean it

Before we look at general ways on how to treat a belly button infection, let us mention something. The most recommended way to clean an infected navel is using saline water (about a half a teaspoon of sea salt added to a cup of warm water). Use cotton balls slowly to clean the area with this solution and dry it well with a fresh paper towel. This will ensure you do not have a recurring infection. If there is no charge or symptoms worsen, visit your doctor.

Treatment and remedies

While look at each of the two main causes, we covered ways on how to treat each them (bacterial and yeast)  We are now going to give you the general ways to get rid, to cure, or to treat infections on this place.

Keep good hygiene

Shower regularly; drying it well after each time, you shower. Do not scrub it with soap and water will remove all the dirt, bacteria and lint. If you have an ‘innie’, you have to be a little more aggressive and wash inside after wrapping a piece of clothing on your finger. The saline solution will be ideal for washing your innie and/or for people who have piercings.

Tea tree oil

They are sources, which recommend the use of dilute tea tree oil to get rid of a belly button infection, which has “antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic properties” []. Apply a mixture of a few drop of dilute tea tree oil to a teaspoon of olive or coconut oil using a cotton ball and wash it off after 15 minutes.

Warm compress

Apply a warm compress to easy pain using a clean piece of cloth.

Aloe vera juice

Apply freshly extracted aloe vera juice and let it stay on your navel until it dries before washing it off. Aloe vera is known for its good healing and pain easing ability i.e. it has soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

Rubbing alcohol

Use it to clean the area since it will sterilize your navel and help stop the infection from spreading. Do not rinse it off after washing.


The use turmeric powder is a good idea since it has antibiotic and antiseptic properties. Make a paste by adding some water and apply it on your navel. After dying, wipe it off with a tissue paper. Furthermore, drinking a glass of milk with a teaspoon of turmeric and some honey will promote internal healing.

White vinegar

White vinegar has acidic properties that can be of help in stopping spread fight the infection.  Mix one part of white vinegar in two parts of water; wait for 15 minutes before washing it off.


“Calendula herb contains hydrating, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that help soothe itching and irritation from infected belly buttons” []. It can also help in faster healing. To use it, extract some juice from candela flowers and apply it on your navel 2-3 times a day.


Finally, you can make a paste from a few leaves of neem (Indian lilac), mix it with a small amount of turmeric powder and apply it on your navel. Leave it for 20 minutes before washing it off. Neem has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and it will help cure your navel infection.

To promote quick recovery, eat foods rich in antioxidants, zinc and vitamin C to fasten healing, do not sleep on your infected navel (put pressure), avoid swimming in chlorinated water, and avoid picking or scratching your infected navel.

Note: Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol use warns on using hydrogen peroxide and alcohol i.e. “do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these can dry out your skin”

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