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Circumcision in Older Children: What to Expect at Home

Uncircumcised penis with foreskin still in place and a circumcised penis with foreskin removed.

Your Child's Recovery

After surgery, your child's penis may be painful, swollen, and bruised. In an older baby or child, there may be some blood coming from the wound edge. The penis may have petroleum jelly and gauze on it from surgery. If gauze is used, follow your doctor's directions about when to remove it. When you remove the gauze, first soak it in warm water, and then gently loosen it.

Your child may not sleep as well and may seem fussy while the circumcision site heals. Let your child return to normal activities when your child seems ready or when your doctor says it's okay. This is usually in 2 or 3 days.

If your child wears diapers, use petroleum jelly on the stitches with each diaper change. Fasten the diapers loosely. If your child wears underpants, make sure that the pants aren't rubbing on the penis.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?


  • Let your child rest for a few days. Sleeping will help with recovery.
  • Have your child avoid doing any tumbling for a few days. Have your child avoid doing straddling activities, such as riding a tricycle or using a sit-on toy, for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Do not let your child do intense exercise, such as sports, running, or physical education at school, for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Your child may shower or have a sponge bath the day after surgery. Ask your doctor when it is okay for your child to swim or take a bath.
  • Your child should be able to go back to school or daycare in about 2 or 3 days.


  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids for the first 24 hours to avoid becoming dehydrated. Use clear fluids, such as water, apple juice, and flavoured ice pops.
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor or nurse advice line.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, see that your child takes it as prescribed.
    • Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medicine. Do not use naproxen (Aleve) without your doctor's okay. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
    • Give the medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, be sure your child takes them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

If your doctor told you how to care for your child's incision, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:

  • Always wash your hands before touching the incision area.
  • Wash the area daily with warm water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • You may cover the area with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing.
  • Change the bandage every day. And change it more often if the bandage becomes wet, bloody, or dirty.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has pain that does not get better after your child takes pain medicine.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • You find a spot of bleeding larger than a 5 cm (2 in.) circle from an incision.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as red streaks or pus from the incision.
  • Your child's bruising is not getting better after 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Your child has not returned to normal activities after 3 to 5 days.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.