Urethritis is when the urethra becomes irritated or infected. The urethra is the tube that connects the bladder to the end of the penis. It carries the urine out of the bladder. The main symptom is burning or discomfort when passing urine. If the boy is not circumcised, the foreskin may also be irritated and itchy. This problem only occurs in young boys, long before puberty.
Most urethritis in young boys is due to a soap irritation of the urethra opening. The usual irritants are bubble bath, shampoo, or soap left under the foreskin. Before puberty, the lining of the opening of the penis is thin and sensitive to soaps. If the urethritis spreads to the bladder, a bladder infection can occur (cystitis). This will cause worse symptoms such as more pain with passing urine, frequent urination and wetting. In addition, the urine will become cloudy and have a bad odor. If the foreskin becomes infected, pus may occur.
Any child with painful urination needs a urine sample checked in a lab. This is to rule out a bladder infection. Soap urethritis is diagnosed by having symptoms of pain or mild discomfort when passing urine plus a normal urine exam.
Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for the painful urination.
Cleanse the end of the penis with warm water. If your boy is not circumcised, pull back the foreskin as far as it will easily go and also rinse that area. Never use soap under the foreskin or on the end of the penis. Have your son soak his bottom in a basin or bathtub of warm water for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice a day for the next 2 days. This will remove any irritants from the genital area and promote healing. After the symptoms go away, cleanse the genital area once a day with warm water.
Apply a tiny amount of 1% hydrocortisone cream (a nonprescription item) to the end of the penis. Dry the area first. Do this for 2 days, then stop using it.
Encourage him to drink enough fluids to keep the urine light-colored. Concentrated urine can be an irritant.
The discomfort goes away after 1 to 2 days of proper treatment.
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