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Why does my belly button smell?

Belly buttons are viewed with fascination by some and horror by many. There’s just something about having this hole in our bodies that rubs people up the wrong way, but be warned - you neglect your navel at your own peril.

Almost everyone has a belly button, which is left over from where your umbilical cord was attached while you developed in the womb. They come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny indentations to spiral-shaped ‘outies’.

For some, however, their belly button can be a source of distress, producing a foul odor that can range from something like a strong cheese to fish or even poo..

belly button smell

Poor Hygiene

There’s a variety of reasons why your belly button might smell, but most of the time, a noxious navel is caused by poor hygiene.

Like it or not, your entire body is crawling with bacteria and the belly button makes an ideal home for many species. The navel traps dead skin, along with oils that are naturally produced by your skin and any other debris that happens to fall in.

Even if you wash every day, your belly button can retain moisture, making the environment even more appealing for bacteria, who will multiply and if left unchecked, produce a variety of smells and potentially, some more serious problems.

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Risk factors

Smelly belly buttons can happen to anyone, but you’re more at risk if:

  • You’ve got a belly button piercing
  • You’ve recently had surgery in the area
  • You’re overweight
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’ve had sunburn in the area
  • You’ve got diabetes
  • You have eczema

If bacterial or fungal infection has set in, there’s a number of signs to look out for. As well as the smell, infections cause pus-like discharge, warmth and pain.

Treating a smelly belly button

While it might gross you out, the best way to both treat and prevent infections in the belly button is with proper navel hygiene.

You won’t need to do it every day, but you should regularly take time to clean out your belly button with soap and water and dry it thoroughly after washing.

For those with piercings, it’s recommended to clean your navel with salt water. This will absorb any excess moisture and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

If you’re experiencing particularly bad discharge or pain, it’s well worth speaking to a doctor. They’ll be able to determine whether a topical antibacterial or antifungal cream might be of use. However, there’s no substitute for keeping your belly button clean and dry.

In cases where the smell is caused by a recent surgery in the area, you’ll also need to speak to a doctor, since medical intervention might be required to correct the problem.

Nervous about your navel?

If your belly button’s bothering you, don’t suffer in silence - speak to a doctor online now.

Our GPs can examine the area, provide expert advice on what might be causing the problem and if needed, prescribe a topical cream to help clear up any infections.

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