How do navel become infected

Belly button inflammation: description

Belly button inflammation mostly occurs in newborns on the umbilicus, umbilical stump and surrounding tissue. The main culprits are bacteria that are transmitted during or after birth.

In the developing world, inflammation of the belly button is a major contributor to the high level of newborn mortality. In the industrialized countries, on the other hand, it affects less than one percent of newborns and then only rarely leads to death. Umbilical infections can be the source of serious complications when bacteria enter tissues and blood through the umbilicus.

The navel and the umbilical cord

During pregnancy, the child is supplied with nutrients and oxygen via the belly button. The umbilical cord connects the child with the placenta. It should be cut through in a sterile manner after birth, as the vessels running in it can serve as entry points for infections. After the umbilical cord has been cut, the umbilical cord dries up, turns dark blue and falls off after five to 15 days of life. The body's own immune cells and proteins are activated, which separate the navel from the umbilical cord stump. The inflammatory reactions that develop in this way are not, however, bacterial umbilical inflammation.

Belly button infection: symptoms

The first symptoms appear three days to three weeks after the infection (incubation period). The earlier in the life of a newborn baby, the more dangerous it is, the more dangerous it is.

Typical symptoms: secretion - reddening - swelling

Typically, a greasy, purulent and strongly smelling secretion emerges from the navel when the navel is inflamed out. The skin around the navel is red, swollen and very sensitive to the touch. If the infection spreads, there will also be small-area and punctiform bleeding in the skin, blisters and a crackling noise. Occasionally the symptoms are very mild.

There is a risk of spreading the pathogen!

If the immune system of the newborn is particularly weak or if the course is particularly difficult, blood poisoning (sepsis) can develop from an inflammation of the belly button. This is indicated by symptoms such as fever or hypothermia, lethargy, poor drinking, drop in blood pressure, increase in heart rate, breathing disorders, strong immune system and overstretching of the abdomen.

If the navel is inflamed, the surrounding (muscle) tissue can die. The so-called necrotic fasciitis, which is usually difficult to progress, is particularly dangerous. In this severe form of infection, the subcutaneous skin and even the underlying fascia die, which as part of the connective tissue envelop and stabilize all organs, muscles and other body units.

The inflammation of the belly button can also spread to the blood vessels around the umbilical region, the peritoneum, and the liver. In rare cases, abscesses form in the liver.

Belly button inflammation: causes and risk factors

Bacteria usually cause inflammation of the navel. Newborns in particular are particularly susceptible. They lack sufficient defenses because their immune system has not yet come into contact with bacteria and has been able to build up a powerful defense.

The reason: Before the birth, the skin around which the amniotic fluid washes is free of bacteria. The skin of the newborn is only colonized with bacteria for the first time in the course of the birth. To prevent umbilical inflammation, hygiene - especially umbilical detachment with sterile tools - plays an important role. Because the umbilical region offers bacteria a very good habitat. If the bacteria get into the umbilical vessels, the infection can spread through the blood - the result is blood poisoning.

Risk factors

A low birth weight, premature birth, malformations of the umbilical region, complications during childbirth or the insertion of an umbilical catheter increase the risk of navel infection. Belly button infections are also more common in congenital diseases of the immune system.

Belly button inflammation: examinations and diagnosis

Even when looking at the navel, the doctor usually recognizes a navel infection by its typical appearance. In order to precisely determine the pathogen, the doctor takes a swab from the navel with a sterile swab, and then a bacterial culture is created in the laboratory.

Blood test

In the laboratory, specialists examine the blood for signs of inflammation and evidence of possible blood poisoning.

Imaging procedures

The doctor can use ultrasound to examine the area around the navel and abdomen. If the bacteria are suspected of spreading through the blood, computed tomography of the abdomen should be performed.

In severe cases, a more detailed diagnosis must follow, depending on the complication.

Belly button infection: treatment

In the case of inflammation of the navel, therapy must be started immediately. It should also be closely monitored in order to identify complications early on.


The treatment is carried out with a suitable antibiotic in an age-appropriate dose.

In the early stages it is sometimes sufficient to use antibiotic and antiseptic ointments under close supervision. The doctor always treats pronounced inflammation of the navel with an antibiotic that is effective on the entire organism. Regulation of the fluid balance alleviates the symptoms. If necessary, the child is cared for as an in-patient in the hospital.


If tissue dies, abscesses form, and the infection progresses, surgery is needed. These interventions can save lives.

Severe courses should always be supervised by intensive care medicine and treated without delay.

How can you prevent belly button infections?

In hospitals, strict adherence to hygiene regulations before an umbilical infection helps. Most of the time, the triggering germs are transmitted through the hands of the contact person. It is therefore mandatory to wash and disinfect hands before coming into contact with the newborn. You should pay particular attention to hygiene when breastfeeding.

Navel care

The newborn should be carefully cared for with soap and water and the navel should be kept as dry as possible. The umbilical stump is covered with a sterile compress to protect it, which should not get damp - for example with urine. Studies show that antiseptic treatment with chlorhexidine can prevent navel inflammation. If the navel falls off, the cover is usually no longer necessary.


In certain circumstances, such as a fever during childbirth, premature rupture of the bladder, or prolonged delivery, the doctor recommends taking antibiotics as a preventative measure.

Belly button inflammation: disease course and prognosis

Belly button inflammation is basically a dangerous disease that requires medical attention. In severe cases, the inflammation of the belly button can spread and lead to life-threatening complications. Antibiotic-resistant germs in particular are particularly difficult to treat. Overall, the forecast is the Inflammation of the belly button very different. In countries with well-educated health systems, the prognosis with treatment is very good.

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