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Skin problems health centre

Treating balanitis

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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If you or your child has balanitis, the recommended treatment will depend on what is causing the condition.

In all cases of balanitis you should avoid potential irritants and make sure to practise good hygiene. For example:

  • keep your penis clean by washing it with warm water twice a day
  • avoid using soap and other irritants - you could use aqueous cream as a soap substitute
  • wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet

Potential irritants to avoid

If you have balanitis, urine is the most important irritant to keep away from the skin of your penis. Other irritants to avoid include:

  • soap and shower gel
  • bubble baths
  • baby wipes
  • latex condoms
  • lubricants
  • antiseptics
  • hygiene sprays

Read about preventing balanitis for more information on hygiene and avoiding irritants.

Skin irritation

If your balanitis is the result of skin irritation, you will usually be prescribed a topical corticosteroid (steroid cream or ointment).

Apply the cream to the head of your penis once or twice a day until your symptoms have gone. Do not use the medication for more than 14 days in a row because this could lead to side effects, such as itchy skin and a skin rash.

It is important to avoid potential irritants and make sure that the head of your penis and your foreskin do not come into contact with urine after you urinate.

Fungal infection

If your balanitis is the result of a fungal infection, you will be prescribed either an antifungal cream or an oral antifungal medication (tablet or capsule), such as fluconazole

Fluconazole is not recommended for children who are under 16 years old. It can also cause side effects, including:

  • headache
  • skin rash
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea 

If your symptoms are particularly troublesome, you may also be prescribed a seven-day course of a topical corticosteroid, usually in the form of a cream or ointment.

Bacterial infection

If a bacterial infection is the cause of your balanitis, you will be prescribed a seven-day course of oral antibiotics (antibiotic tablets or capsules).

An antibiotic called amoxicillin is usually recommended. However, if you are allergic to penicillin, erythromycin or clarithromycin may be prescribed.

Common side effects of these types of antibiotics include:

  • skin rash
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal pain

Again, if your symptoms are particularly troublesome, you may also be prescribed a seven-day course of a topical corticosteroid.


All the treatments listed above should start working in seven days. Contact your GP if your symptoms do not improve after this time because you may require an alternative treatment.

Referral to a specialist

If your balanitis is not caused by an infection and your GP cannot identify the cause, you may be referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist) or genito-urinary (GUM) clinic for further investigation.

If you have phimosis (a tight foreskin) and you have repeat episodes of balanitis, you may be advised to have a circumcision.

Medical Review: November 29, 2012

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