The belly button or navel is a dip in the middle of the belly. It marks the place where a person's umbilical cord was attached in the womb.
Belly buttons come in all shapes and sizes, and, no matter how they look, they can become infected.
- A fungal infection can result if belly button bacteria multiply too much.
- Belly button skin needs to be cleaned regularly to keep it healthy.
- Risk factors, such as poor hygiene, increase the potential for the belly button to smell.
What causes a belly button to smell?
Poor hygiene is the most common cause of belly button smell.
Most belly buttons are indented so act as a trap for sweat, dead skin, and dirt. Few people wash the belly button with soap so germs can develop.
The most common cause for a belly button smell is poor hygiene. All areas of the body need to be washed regularly to stay clean and healthy.
Skin is home to trillions of bacteria, which develop naturally and are usually harmless.
The belly button has folds of skin that provide a place for bacteria to grow. Most of these bacteria remain at a low level and will not cause a smell. But if bacteria become too dense, they may result in an unpleasant or offensive smell.
Any infection should be checked by a doctor, and medication and lifestyle changes may be needed.
Candida is a yeast that lives on the skin. It does not usually cause problems, but it can multiply on skin that is warm and moist for a long time. If it multiplies, it can turn into a fungal infection.
Candida commonly affects the mouth and throat, where it is known as thrush. When it affects the vagina, it is referred to as a yeast infection.
A version of the infection known as candidal intertrigo can affect folds on the skin, such as the armpits, groin, or belly button. Skin will appear red and scaly, and blisters can form.
Candidal intertrigo is treated with antifungal medication and lifestyle changes. These changes include keeping the skin cool, dry, and clean, and avoiding tight clothing.
People with diabetes and those who are obese are more likely to have an infection of this kind.
Another cause of smell around the belly button is an infected cyst. A cyst is a small lump underneath the skin. They can be common and do not usually cause pain unless they become infected.
An infected cyst will be red, inflamed, sore, and tender to the touch. Pus may come out of a cyst, and this usually has an unpleasant smell.
What type of odor do they have?
Areas of the body, including the armpits or feet, are more likely to become moist with sweat and smell. This is because bacteria break down the sweat and create a waste product that has a strong odor.
If the belly button has trapped dead skin and sweat, it is likely to smell sweaty.
A fungal infection is also likely to smell bad, especially if there is pus around the area.
When to see a doctor
A doctor may prescribe medication if a belly button is infected.
If the belly button becomes infected, a person should see a doctor for advice and prescribe medication if needed.
The symptoms of an infection are redness, itching, and swelling. Sometimes, there may be fluid or pus, which can harden to form a crust around the area.
A person should see a doctor if they think that a cyst has become infected. Bursting or popping the cyst is not recommended, as this can cause further problems.
If the odor is a result of the belly button becoming dirty or greasy, carefully washing it is the best way to get rid of the smell.
If belly button odor is due to an infection, an appointment should be made with a doctor who can give advice and prescribe treatment if needed.
How to clean the belly button
Washing prevents a buildup of dead skin, sweat, and oils that the body produces naturally. Frequent washing also removes germs.
Using warm water and mild soap, use a washcloth to gently clean around and just inside the belly button. Rinse with clean, warm water and dry with a towel to make sure that all water has been removed from the belly button.
Showering or bathing regularly can help to prevent skin problems and odor. Areas of the body, such as the belly button or feet, can get missed, but these need as much regular cleaning as other areas of the body.
Washing is necessary particularly after sweating a lot, for example, in hot weather or after exercising.
A range of mild soaps is available for purchase online.
A person may be more at risk of belly button smell in the following circumstances:
- they have diabetes
- they recently had a belly button piercing
- they are overweight
A risk factor for belly button smell may be a piercing.
Belly button piercings can become infected. An infection can create fluid or pus, known as discharge, that can smell bad. Discharge may be thick and yellow or green in color, and it may harden into a crust around the piercing.
Other signs of infection include redness and swelling around a piercing, a feeling of warmth in the area, pain, or bleeding. A person may also have a high temperature or feel unwell. Someone should see a doctor if they have any signs of infection.
Leaving jewelry in the piercing can help discharge to drain and prevent an abscess forming.
A professional body piercer should advise on how to keep a piercing clean and prevent infection at the time the piercing is done.
Washing the belly button should solve the problem of a bad smell if this is due to a buildup of dirt and germs. Remembering to keep the belly button clean, and drying it thoroughly after washing, should lead to a belly button that smells better.
Once an infection has been treated, the belly button should stop smelling and return to normal. To avoid future infections, the belly button should be kept clean and dry at all times.
It may also be a good idea to avoid tight clothes, as they can increase the risk of developing a fungal infection.