Steps to Take if Your Belly Button Is Leaking Fluid

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Your belly button (navel) marks where your umbilical cord detached from the placenta (the organ that nourishes a fetus inside the womb) before you were born.

If you notice belly button discharge, chances are you have an infection. But other things, such as cysts and poor hygiene, can also cause your belly button to leak fluid.

This article explains the symptoms, causes, and treatment for belly button discharge.

A woman's belly button

JGI / Getty Images

Signs of Belly Button Discharge

If your belly button is leaking fluid, you may experience the following:

  • Discharge that is yellow, tan, or clear
  • Blood
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • A foul odor

If an odor persists after you wash and dry your belly button, you may want to seek medical advice because this could indicate an infection.


Human skin houses a lot of bacteria. In one study, researchers found that belly buttons, like other skin locations, have diverse bacterial communities. On average, they found 67 types of bacteria per belly button.

Skin bacteria is normal. But when the skin is damaged or moist, it can lead to problems. Commonly, an infected belly button causes the discharge. However, some other things can lead to belly button discharge, too.

Bacterial Infection

Any bacterial skin infection can impact the belly button. Skin infections can occur when bacteria that typically live on the skin enter the body through a cut or wound.

Risk factors for developing a skin infection include:

  • Skin injury
  • Skin conditions that could cause cracks in the skin (like eczema or fungal infections)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

Scratches, naval piercings, and surgical incisions are common belly button injuries that can lead to an infection.

Post-Surgical Infection

A surgical incision (especially laparoscopic surgery) through the navel increases your risk of a belly button infection. Healthcare providers use laparoscopic surgery through the belly button for abdominal and pelvic surgeries, including hernia repair.

Fungal Infection

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by yeast. These infections commonly occur on the skin, including the belly button.

Fungal infections occur when yeast overgrows in moist conditions. Belly buttons are an optimal place for yeast overgrowth due to their dark, concave location, which can harbor excess moisture.

If you have a fungal infection in your belly button, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Skin cracking
  • Clear drainage
  • Itching
  • Burning


A cyst is a fluid-filled growth that can occur anywhere in the body, including the belly button. Several types of cysts can occur in the belly button, including:

If a cyst causes your belly button drainage, you may also notice a lump just under the skin.

Belly Button Care Tips

Good hygiene practices can help reduce your chance of infection. To keep your belly button clean, follow these tips:

  • Wash your belly button when you shower with water and soap.
  • Dry your belly button thoroughly after you shower, bathe, or swim.
  • Avoid using creams or lotions inside your belly button.
  • Keep the area clean if you pierced your belly button and follow your piercer's aftercare directions.

Seek medical advice if you experience belly button pain, discharge that doesn't resolve, or a foul smell.

Treatment Based on Cause

Treating a leaking belly button depends on the cause. For example, a healthcare provider treats an infection based on whether it's bacterial or fungal.

Treatments may include:

If a healthcare provider prescribes medication, be sure to take all of the medicine according to their advice, even if you start to feel better. Keep your infection or wound clean following treatment to limit the likelihood of reinfection.


Bacterial infections, fungal infections, and cysts may cause belly button discharge. Belly buttons can become infected if the skin is cracked, overly moist, or pierced. In addition, laparoscopic surgery through the naval may pose a risk for infection. Treatment includes antibiotics, antifungals, or drainage.

A Word From Verywell

Keeping your belly button clean and dry can significantly reduce the likelihood of a smelly, itchy, leaky, or infected belly button. An easy way to wash your belly button is to put a wet washcloth over your pointer finger and work soapy water into the cracks and crevices of your belly button. Be sure to also rinse with plain water and thoroughly dry your belly button when you are through.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long before belly button discharge goes away?

    How long it takes to resolve belly button discharge depends on the cause and the treatment. For example, antifungal or antibiotic treatment may take a week or more to work, while you may have instant relief from cyst drainage.

  • Are there creams that work best for belly button discharge?

    You should avoid placing creams or lotions on your belly button unless a healthcare provider tells you to. That's because these can trap moisture and lead to more problems. However, sometimes treatment will include topical antibiotics or antifungal creams.

  • Why does my belly button smell?

    Your belly button may smell for various reasons, including a buildup of dirt, bacteria, or infection. A "sulfury" smell is associated with bacterial infections. On the other hand, the scent of a dirty belly button may smell like a general body odor.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skin infections.

  2. Hulcr J, Latimer AM, Henley JB, et al. A jungle in there: bacteria in belly buttons are highly diverse, but predictablePLoS One. 2012;7(11):e47712. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047712

  3. Tomioka K, Murakami M, Fujimori A, et al. Risk factors for transumbilical wound complications in laparoscopic gastric and colorectal surgeryIn Vivo. 2017;31(5):943-948. doi: 10.21873/invivo.11151

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Yeast infection.

  5. Akhmetova A, Saliev T, Allan IU, et al. A comprehensive review of topical odor-controlling treatment options for chronic woundsJ Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2016;43(6):598-609. doi:10.1097/WON.0000000000000273

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.