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Why Does Your Belly Button Smell?

Your belly button, or navel, has a tendency to collect bacteria, sweat, and dirt. As a matter of fact, your belly button is capable of growing more than 67 different kinds of bacteria.

Belly button infections 

Bacteria can gather quickly and trigger an infection, which can lead to a funky smell in your belly button. This is especially true if your belly button is an “innie” or your navel is pierced. Making sure your belly button is clean will help prevent any unpleasant smells and keep it happy and healthy. 

Considering all the parts of your body that can get infected, you may not even think of your belly button. Like every other part of your body, though, your belly button can be infected by fungi and bacteria. If you don’t clean your belly button regularly, this can trigger a rapid growth of microorganisms, resulting in infection. Some belly button infections include staph infections, strep infections, yeast infections, infected epidermoid cysts, and infected sebaceous cysts.

Belly button cysts

Cysts are hard or soft, liquid or pus-filled growths. Urachal cysts can cause discharge from the belly button. The urachus is the tube that connects the fetal bladder to the umbilical cord. Although the urachus usually closes up before a baby is born, sometimes it fails to close up completely. In this case, a cyst may form on it later in life. If the cyst becomes infected, it can cause leakage from the belly button. Other symptoms may arise such as abdominal pain, fever, and pain when urinating. In some cases, sebaceous cysts can also result in belly button discharge.

Poor hygiene

One of the most common causes of odor from your belly button is poor hygiene. The belly button acts as a trap for sweat, dead skin, and dirt. A lot of people forget to wash their belly buttons, so germs have a tendency to develop there. To keep a clean and healthy belly button, maintaining overall hygiene is important. 

Your skin is home to trillions of bacteria that naturally develop there and are usually harmless. The belly button has folds of skin that give the bacteria a nice place to grow. Most of these bacteria have no odor, but if they get too densely packed, an unpleasant or offensive belly button smell may develop. 

A newborn baby is covered with amniotic and birth canal secretions and does not smell very pleasant. After a bath and a good clean up (excluding the umbilical cord), that odor goes away. Right after delivery, the umbilical cord attaching the baby to the mother will be cut. Because the cord’s blood supply is cut, it starts drying up and withers away. A purple-blue stump may remain until it completely falls off. The belly button may then surface as early as the third day after birth; however, it usually takes up to two weeks. The cord stump/belly button may smell unpleasant at first, but this smell will go away as soon as the residual cord stump falls off completely.

Smelly navel risk factors 

You’re more likely to experience a smelly belly button in the following circumstances: 

  • if you have diabetes 
  • if you recently had a belly button piercing 
  • if you are overweight

Preventing a smelly button 

  • Washing your belly button at least once a day prevents a build-up of the dead skin, sweat, and oils that your body produces naturally. Showering or bathing daily can also help prevent skin problems and unpleasant odors. Especially after sweating a lot, which happens in hot weather or after strenuous exercises, make sure to wash your body well.
  • Using warm water and soap, gently clean in and around your belly button. Rinse the soap with warm water and dry your belly button with a clean towel.

Here are steps to clean your belly button:

  • Depending on the sensitivity of your skin, you can use water, rubbing alcohol, baby oil, or hydrogen peroxide to clean your belly button.  
  • Dip one side of a cotton swab into a cleansing agent and gently wipe your belly button. Delicately work your way across the belly button, being careful not to rub inside the navel and cause irritation. 
  • If your navel is still dirty or smelly, start the process again with a new, clean swab. When you’re done, make sure to remove any excessive cleansing agent from your navel.
  • You can now apply a small drop of baby oil to replace the natural oils you may have wiped away.
  • If your belly button becomes very dry, gently apply some antibiotic ointment in and around the center of your navel. Afterward, remove any excess ointment with a swab. 

Washing your belly button should stop the unpleasant smell if it appears because of a build-up of dirt and germs. However, if the bad smell persists even after you clean your belly button, you may want to see a doctor. If you develop redness, swelling, aching, or discharge, your belly button may be infected. This is especially problematic if you have a navel piercing. In this case, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or other treatment.





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