Genital dermatitis in boys: What parents should know

Genital itching can be cause for concern in boys. However, hygiene changes or switching soaps can help prevent the issue.

If you’re male, chances are you’ve had — or will have — genital itching at some point in your life. Boys’ genital itching comes with swelling, burning and sometimes a rash — called genital dermatitis.

What is genital dermatitis?

Genital dermatitis is a skin condition that affects the penis, scrotum, groin, skin around the opening of the anus and the skin between the cheeks of the buttocks.

“In younger boys, we often see topical skin rashes or dermatitis caused by soaps, detergents, nonbreathable underwear/diapers and poor hygiene,” said Jeffrey T. White, M.D., pediatric urologist with Norton Children’s Urology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “These things disturb the natural balance of the delicate genital skin, causing so-called ‘bad’ bacteria or yeast to grow and cause issues.”

According to Dr. White, the condition often is caused by poor self-hygiene habits and irritation from natural waste products versus contact with others.

Genital dermatitis symptoms

Common symptoms of genital dermatitis include:

  • Itching or irritation around the penis and scrotum
  • Red, irregular rash
  • Redness and swelling
  • Unusual odor (sometimes)

Genital dermatitis treatment and prevention

“Most times genital dermatitis in boys can be treated by teaching better hygiene and even applying Vaseline or another barrier that protects the thin, sensitive skin around the penis and scrotum,” Dr. White said. “In some cases, a steroid cream, antifungal or even antibiotic may be needed.”

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“The best thing you can do is treat your genital skin as gently as you would treat your face.”

To prevent genital dermatitis, your child should:

  • Wash the penis and scrotum area well, using a gentle soap. Also rinse well and dry.
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Avoid wearing tight pants
  • Avoid bubble baths and perfumed soaps
  • If uncircumcised, retract the foreskin prior to every void and replace once voiding is complete.

If your child is still experiencing symptoms of genital dermatitis after a few days, they should see a physician to rule out other issues, such as a yeast infection.