Umbilical cord infection and proper umbilical cord care
Though an umbilical cord infection is rare, every change in color and appearance is a concern for a young mother. How to can you prevent the stump from getting infected?
Many are even afraid to touch and clean the cord stump. Proper care of the umbilical cord stump is important because it will help to prevent infections.
In this article we will discuss how to care for the umbilical cord stump and the first signs of an infection.
How to care for the umbilical cord?
The first three days the chance of infection is greatest. To avoid infection it is important to keep the stump dry and clean.
A moist and unclean umbilical cord stump is an ideal environment for growing germs.
To prevent infection the scissors used to cut the umbilical cord should be sterile because they come in direct contact with the baby's blood stream.
How to prevent umbilical cord infection at home?
- Always wash your hands before you touch the umbilical area.
- Fold diapers back so they do not cover the stump.
- If possible leave the stump to air dry or cover with loose clothing.
- Give your baby only sponge baths until the stump falls of.
- Never pull on the stump as this may cause bleeding.
Some doctors will advice you to clean the stump with antiseptics like alcohol to reduce the chance of infection others are against this because they believe it will delay the drying process and the cord falling of.
It is normal to see some discharge or a bit of blood before and after the stump has separated.
How do you know your baby has an infected umbilical cord?
Symptoms of an umbilical cord infection
- Redness and swelling of the umbilical area.
- Yellow or green discharge or dried up pus.
- A foul smell from the area around the cord stump.
- The area is painful to the touch.
Treating the infection at home
- Clean the stump four times a day with a cotton swab or cotton ball and some rubbing alcohol.
- If your baby has also pus, apply some antibiotic ointment after cleaning with the alcohol.
- Fold baby’s diaper so it does not cover the stump.
- Keep the infected stump dry; that means no bathing in the tub.
When to call a doctor?
- If there is no improvement after three days of home treatment.
- Baby has a fever higher than 38°C ( 100.4° F) taken rectally.
- Fair amount of discharge from the stump (pus, blood or urine).
- If baby acts like he is not feeling well or won’t feed.
A serious umbilical cord infection needs to be treated with oral or intravenous antibiotics. This is to prevent that the bacteria spread through baby's blood stream and cause a life threatening condition called sepsis.
One in about 500 babies will develop umbilical granuloma. This appears as protruding pink fleshy remains from the navel after separation of the umbilical cord.
This can be accompanied by drainage and swelling. It needs to be treated because it is not something that will go away on its own. Usually treatment is a simple procedure that can be done in the doctor's office. Your doctor will apply silver nitrate solution to burn the granuloma tissue.
This is not painful because there are no nerve ends in the tissue. Silver nitrate should be applied with caution because spilling may cause burns to the area around the navel.
Though this is the most common treatment your doctor may also use cryosurgery. With this method they use extreme cold to destroy the abnormal tissue.
Another treatment option is to tie a surgical thread around the base of this abnormal growth and wait until it drops of.
In conclusion, an umbilical cord infection can most of the time be prevented by practicing proper hygiene in the umbilical area until the stumps has dried out and fallen of.