Parents who leave their children uncircumcised live with a mystery. There is no way of knowing what might be going on underneath the foreskin concealing a portion of their baby’s penis. After all, should they become too concerned and manipulate the foreskin for any kind of cleaning or inspection, they could do more harm than good. Luckily, an uncircumcised penis is designed to stay pretty damn clean until puberty at which point it becomes the kids responsibility to keep that thing tidy.
“You want the penis to be a little on the larger side before you start digging deep down under the foreskin,” says Florida-based urologist Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt. “You don’t want to peel it back when the penis is small and injure it. Don’t force it.”
It turns out that when the foreskin is tight during the first few years of a child’s life, it acts as a pretty great natural barrier. That means that when an uncircumcised child is very young, parents don’t need to invest too much worry into the beasties that can get under the skin later in life, including bacteria and the yeast that can lead to smelly, cheese-like build up around the head of the penis. That’s generally more of a worry as a boy starts having more frequent erections or becomes sexually active.
How to Care for a Boys Uncircumcised Penis
- Don’t force it: The foreskin will become looser as a boy ages. And their natural inclination to fiddle with their penis will help things along.
- Teach them to wash: When a boy is successful in being able to retract their foreskin, teach them to make a habit of washing gently around the head, or glans, of the penis to keep it clean.
- Look for tightness: Sometimes the foreskin might be too tight. Symptoms include the foreskin ballooning during urination, or being unable to return to its normal position after being retracted. In both circumstances, parenst should see a professional.
- Talk during puberty: When a boy hits puberty, they should be reminded of penile hygiene. Frequent erections and the beginning of sexual activity increase the need to wash under the foreskin daily. Use the time to address safe sex as well.
Importantly, young boys are always playing with their penises. If they are uncircumcised, that absent-minded manipulation, tugging and fiddling will eventually loosen the foreskin allowing the child to retract it on their own. Happily, a parent or doctor does not normally have to intervene in the process. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are unusual.
“If your kid is trying to retract the skin and they feel uncomfortable or the feel like it’s cracking and it’s not pleasant that may be a time to go see a pediatric urologist,” Brahmbhatt explains. The problem may be that the foreskin is just too tight around the penis. It happens. “If it’s too tight now, it will be too tight later. You may want to have a circumcision to avoid problems in the future.”
There are other issues that can occur with foreskin at the earliest ages. For instance, once a boy is past potty training age they may report, or parents might notice, their foreskin ballooning up when they urinate, resulting in a weak stream. “Sometimes these poor kids will also dribble urine into their underwear that was trapped by the foreskin,” Brahmbhatt says. “That also indicates tightness in the foreskin. They may need a circumcision”
Another issue is called paraphimosis. This is when the retracted foreskin rolls up and is unable to return to its previous position. This creates blood restriction, swelling and pain. “That’s when you really have to get to your doctor, because that is something that really needs to get taken care of,” cautions Brahmbhatt. Why? Because if left unchecked, the penis could possibly become gangrenous.
Serious penile hygiene comes when children are able to fully retract their foreskin. While this usually happens around puberty it can happen much earlier. Parents should keep an eye out. If a boy is able to pull back their foreskin and reveal the head, or glans, of their penis, then they should also be washing that part of their body to get in the habit during bathtime.
But Brahmbhatt suggests that parents can go the extra mile in this instance. “The cool thing is using penile hygiene to educate your kid about sexual protection,” he says. “It’s a very good segway into that conversation.”