Can a belly button infection kill you?

can a belly button infection kill you
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


Everybody has an umbilical cord, the little skin fold that develops in your abdomen following the delivery of your umbilical cord. Convex (outies) or concave (innies) belly buttons are the two types. Omphalitis, the medical term for a belly button infection, is not usually fatal; if treatment is not received, it can have significant consequences. Both adults and neonates can develop Omphalitis, which manifests as swelling, redness, and discharge from the belly button. You might have an infection or injury if you experience discomfort, swelling, or discharge from your navel. Continue reading on the available treatments and types of belly button infections. 

Can a belly button infection kill you?

Infections of the belly button often don’t offer a significant health risk. On the other side, if treatment is not received, it may result in serious, fatal consequences. A condition known as sepsis may result from an infection that is so bad that it enters the bloodstream. Sepsis can cause organ failure, septic shock, and even death if it is not treated right away.

An Itchy, red and leaky Belly Button can indicate severe infection. Consult Now

What are the different types of belly button infections?

Various conditions can be referred to as “belly button infections.” Several kinds of bacteria, yeast, or even cysts may be the source of the infection. The following are a few of the most typical kinds of belly button problems:

Belly button yeast infection

A type of fungal infection that affects the surrounding skin of the belly button is called candidiasis, sometimes also known as a yeast infection of the belly button. Candida yeast overgrowth in the area leads to belly button yeast infections. Poor personal hygiene, tight clothing, and moisture-trapping belly button piercings can all contribute to this. It may also arise from using antibiotics that upset your body’s average bacterial and fungal balance or from a compromised immune system.

According to research, people with diabetes are more likely to get yeast infections. This is because diabetes frequently results in elevated or uncontrollably high blood sugar levels, and yeast thrives on sugar. Small lumps or blisters, dry or peeling skin, redness, and itching around the belly button can all be signs of a yeast infection around the belly button. Generally, antifungal creams or ointments are applied as prescribed by a medical expert, and the affected region is kept dry and clean.

Bacterial belly button infection

A “bacterial belly button infection” arises when germs penetrate the skin surrounding the belly button, resulting in symptoms such as inflammation. A recent belly button piercing, localized trauma or surgery, poor personal hygiene, or an underlying condition that impairs immune function can all cause a red and infected belly button.

Fever, redness, swelling, and soreness in the belly button area are signs of a bacterial belly button infection. Treatment usually entails cleaning and drying the infected area, applying antibiotic ointments as directed by a doctor, taking oral antibiotics if necessary, and attending to any underlying medical conditions contributing to the infection.

Neonatal omphalitis

The first four weeks of a newborn’s life are when bacterial belly button infections, or Neonatal Omphalitis, most commonly affect them (the neonatal period). Bacteria, including Escherichia coli, group A streptococcus, and Staphylococcus aureus, can cause it.

Omphalitis can quickly worsen and become fatal. Seek quick medical help if you or a caregiver detect signs like swelling or discharge in the abdomen or if your kid has a red rash around their belly button or umbilical stump.

Belly button staph infection

Staphylococcus germs are the sort of bacteria that cause belly button staph infections. Abscesses, or pockets of pus beneath the skin, and non-bullous and bullous impetigo—two disorders that cause crusts and sores—can be the symptoms.

Belly button strep infection

Streptococcus bacteria are the type of bacteria that cause belly button strep infections. This infection can penetrate your skin and tissues, resulting in diseases like impetigo and cellulitis

Skin disorders, including epidermoid and pilar cysts, can also result in an infection of the belly button. Small pockets of air, fluid, or other materials called cysts can form around a hair follicle (pilar cysts) or on the epidermis (epidermoid cysts).

It is not considered that cysts are bacterial infections. But occasionally, they can become infected by filling with pus and bacteria. Despite how tempting it can be, avoid messing with a cyst if you see one. Attempting to burst or empty a cyst on your own may lead to more issues. Instead, contact a dermatologist or other medical professional to evaluate the cyst and, if required, remove it.

Belly button infection can lead to serious complications. Consult now

How to treat belly button infection?

Medical professionals usually recommend topical antibiotics or antifungal drugs after carefully cleansing the affected region when treating a belly button infection.

Prescription medication for yeast infection in the belly button

Antifungal Cream

Your doctor may advise the application of an antifungal cream, such as clotrimazole, miconazole, or ketoconazole, to the affected area. These creams kill the fungus causing the infection and relieve symptoms like itching and redness.

Oral Antifungal Medication

Sometimes, especially if the infection is severe or recurrent, your doctor may prescribe you an oral antifungal medication, such as fluconazole. This medication helps to treat the disease from within the body and is usually taken once daily for a specified period.

Prescription medication for bacterial or staph infection in the belly button

Topical Antibiotics 

Topical antibiotic ointments like mupirocin are commonly used to treat bacterial or staph belly button infections in the belly button. Apply a thin layer to the affected area twice daily after cleaning. 

Oral Antibiotics

Staph infections are typically treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may apply an antibiotic cream, such as mupirocin, to the affected area. Oral antibiotics like cephalexin, dicloxacillin, or clindamycin may be prescribed for more severe infections. These antibiotics kill the bacteria causing the disease and reduce symptoms like redness, swelling, and pain.

Will a belly button infection go away on its own?

A slight belly button infection can occasionally go away with good cleanliness and self-care. On the other hand, more severe infections or diseases brought on by specific bacteria or fungi can need medical attention. Observing the infection and seeking medical assistance is critical if symptoms intensify or do not improve. Early intervention can help avoid complications and hasten the healing process.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent redness, swelling, or tenderness around the belly button
  • Pus or discharge from the belly button
  • Fever or chills
  • Increasing pain or discomfort
  • Symptoms that don’t go better on their own, Recurrent belly button infections
  • Signs of spreading infection, such as red streaks or warmth extending from the belly button
  • Underlying illnesses like diabetes or HIV that could impair your immune system
Persistent belly button infection might require an Antibiotic. Consult Now

FAQs about belly button infection

How can I treat an infected belly button at home?

To treat an infected belly button at home, clean the area with warm water and mild soap, then apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. Keep the area dry and avoid tight clothing. If the infection persists or worsens, seek medical attention.

How do I know if my belly button infection is bacterial or fungal?

There is an unpleasant smell when discharged from bacterial diseases. The discharge may seem green or off-yellow, and it frequently causes pain and edema. There may be a slight difference in fungal and yeast infection symptoms, which is best confirmed on a swab test. 

Why does my belly button smell when I put my finger on it?

Your belly button may smell due to the accumulation of sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells, creating an environment for bacteria to grow. Poor hygiene, obesity, or an “innie” belly button shape can contribute to this odor. Regular cleaning with soap and water can help reduce the smell.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Sanghvi, Akanksha Shah. “Belly Button Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.”
  • Walker, Amber M. “Abe’s Belly Button Bumps.” (2019).
  • Sherman, Joshua Marc, Joshua Rocker, and Ellie Rakovchik. “Her belly button is leaking: a case of patent urachus.” Pediatric Emergency Care 31.3 (2015): 202-204.
  • Bu, Zhi-jun, et al. “Comparative effectiveness and safety of Chinese medicine belly button application for childhood diarrhea: A Bayesian network meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Frontiers in Pediatrics 11 (2023).

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