Foreskin Care

The foreskin is the skin covering the head of the penis. In most babies, the foreskin can't be pulled back (retracted). This is because of the narrow opening at the tip of the foreskin and its attachment to the head of the penis. The inability to retract the foreskin at birth is a normal condition.

As your child gets older, the opening of the foreskin widens. The foreskin also separates from the head of the penis and it is possible to pull the foreskin back. In some children, this occurs by age 3 to 5. In others, it may not occur until adolescence. This is normal. It's important that you don't try to force your child's foreskin back . This can lead to injury and scarring.

Home care

Before the foreskin can be retracted:

  • Wash the foreskin and penis when giving your child a bath.

  • Change your child's diapers often.

Once your child is about 6 months old and the foreskin can be retracted easily:

  • At the appropriate age, teach your child to clean the retracted foreskin with soap and water with each bath or shower.

  • Return the foreskin to the covered position after each cleaning.

Once the foreskin can be retracted, you may notice white, pearl-like lumps under it. These are called smegma. They are made up of skin cells that are shed as the foreskin separates from the head of the penis. Smegma is normal and nothing to worry about.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain or swelling in the foreskin or penis

  • Pain or burning when passing urine

  • Partial or complete blockage in the flow of urine

  • Urine shooting off to 1 side

  • Blood, which can look pink or red, coming from the foreskin or seen in the urine

  • You can't return a retracted foreskin to the normal position; this needs immediate care

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