If you’re squeamish, then don’t feel you need to keep reading, but if you’ve a little boy, then it might be worth continuing.
I’m sure N will be mortified at this post in future, but I think it’s really important to tell people about possible problems that little boys can have until they start washing themselves and getting a bit more wise. Or until their dads tell them what to do.
Yesterday evening I was changing N and noticed that his penis looked much larger than normal – slightly swollen I suppose, and a bit red on the end. He just said it tickled when I cleaned him before putting on a nappy for bed, but that’s normally what he laughs about anyway. It did explain however, his meltdown that afternoon where he said he wanted to poo (I think he really meant wee), but wouldn’t do anything in his nappy, sat on the potty but never does anything on there yet, then cried when I suggested we put on his nappy again. It was obviously hurting him a bit to wee.
This morning I checked again, still swollen, still red on to the top, and looked different to normal; it looked like his nappy had a bit of discharge where it would usually sit against his penis. I asked if it hurt, but at two he still doesn’t understand that.
So off to check with NHS Direct…or not, as it’s stopped in our area, and now the non-emergency line 111 is available. I was very impressed as previously with NHS Direct you end up being called back, but with 111, the person who answered sorted it all out for me, including booking an appointment at the hospital’s out of hours (where previously I’ve had to book my own out of hours appointment at a different ‘walk in’ centre in town).
Only an hour after calling, we were seeing the doctor (obviously not much going on in our town on Sunday mornings). N obviously wasn’t keen on removing his trousers (doesn’t worry him at home, but in front of non-family – that’s a relief knowing that!) but we got them off and nappy undone so he could be checked out.
The doctor explained that there was (excuse the cringeworthy word) ‘smegma’ which can accumulate especially if the foreskin is tight or hasn’t separated from the gland underneath (which is usually the case in young children), so that’s the discharge. Then there can be an inflamation/irritation of the tip of the foreskin (like N) or could be balanitis which is the gland itself. Both can be quite common.
Some prescribed lotion later and a lesson on pulling back the foreskin and putting it on as often as possible during the day, and hopefully it’ll clear up the soreness soon.
The doctor was great. A male doctor,, wrote down his name for me to make sure we could remember it, and told me that this wasn’t uncommon, and that it was frequent that parents weren’t told how the penis should be cleaned (adding that his partner also rarely mentioned it to patients). It sounds to me like it’s one of those hygiene things that is assumed people know about, but realistically why would women know (or need to know) until they have a boy.
When you have a newborn, you’re told or read that you just wash the outside of the penis, but that’s it. No further information as the baby grows and trying to find out more information online is as usual conflicting as to what age it’s safe to pull back (an un-circumcised) penis. On the Babycentre website, it mentions this separation of foreskin from gland happens from age of 2, other websites say older. But, it would make sense to have something like this discussed at the 2 year health visitor check to ensure that all parents know how they can ensure they understand how their child’s body is changing and how they need to potentially change the way they’re washing them.
I’m glad we had the problem otherwise things could have got worse. I shall be looking out for the problem in future and trying to prevent. Let’s hope N will change to showers rather than baths sooner rather than later, as that will help with washing without soap (I can’t see him giving up his bubble bath any time soon). We have to use the lotion for a month, but hopefully it will ease sooner as it’s horrible when your child cries and is too young to explain what they’re crying about.
Who knew washing willies was so complicated? With newborns, we’d always thought that it was harder washing girls!