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Care After Circumcision

Circumcision is a simple procedure. It's most often done in the nursery before a baby boy goes home from the hospital, if the family chooses to have it done. Circumcision can be done in a number of ways. Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure and tell you what to expect. To care for your son after circumcision, follow the tips below.

What to expect 

  • A crust of bloody or yellowish coating may appear around the head of the penis. This is normal. Don't clean off the crust or it may bleed.

  • The penis may swell a little, or bleed a little around the incision.

  • The head of the penis might be slightly red or black and blue.

  • Your baby may cry at first when he urinates, or be fussy for the first couple of days.

  • The circumcision should heal in 1 to 2 weeks.

Keep the penis clean

  • Gently wash your son’s penis with warm water during diaper changes if the penis has stool on it.

  • Use a soft washcloth.

  • Let the skin air-dry.

  • Change diapers often to help prevent infection.

  • Coat the head of the penis with petroleum jelly and gauze if the healthcare provider says to.

For the Gomco or Mogan clamp

  • If there is gauze or a bandage on the penis, you may be asked either to remove it the next day, or to change it each time you change diapers.

For the Plastibell device

  • Let the cap fall off by itself. This takes 3 to 10 days.

  • Call your healthcare provider if the cap falls off in the first 2 days or stays on for more than 10 days.

Image of penis

Image of penis

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your baby's healthcare provider if any of these occur:

  • Your baby's penis is very red or swells a lot.

  • Your child has a fever (see "Fever and children," below).

  • Your child is acting very ill, listless, or fussy. 

  • The discharge becomes heavy, is a greenish color, or lasts more than a week.

  • Bleeding can't be stopped by applying gentle pressure.

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
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