Pus in the belly button is caused by a bacterial infection. A navel infection can produce pus as well as a clear discharge, bleeding, redness, and inflammation. Sometimes, a foul odor can originate from pus in the belly button, but this can usually be managed very effectively. Also, an infection that produces pus in the belly button can cause extreme pain and tenderness in the belly button and on the surrounding tissue.
The waistband from pants and undergarments can worsen symptoms, as can not completely drying the inside of the belly button after bathing. A belly button piercing can get infected and cause pus in the belly button. It is very important that the piercing parlor follow sterile piercing procedures to reduce the risk for infection. Proper aftercare will also reduce the risk of a navel infection, which may include cleaning the area with a special antiseptic solution and keeping the area dry.
In extreme cases, severe itching can occur and cause tissue damage. Cortisone ointment can be applied to the navel when itching and swelling persist, which will generally reduce symptoms. The health care provider may recommend an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and possibly an oral antibiotic. If the infection persists, the health care provider might also choose to investigate the cause further. Medical conditions such as diabetes, fungal infections, yeast infections, and cysts can contribute to pus in the belly button.
After bathing or showering, the navel area should be dried thoroughly and a small amount of rubbing alcohol should be applied to the infected area. This will reduce the bacteria count and promote healing. If, however, the area is very sore, or if a throbbing pain is felt, alcohol is not recommended. In these cases, plain cornstarch can be dusted in and around the belly button to keep it dry and itch-free.
Navel infections can produce pus of various colors and textures. Pus can appear as white, beige, green, or brown. The infection can also produce blood-tinged pus that can appear pink or red. The texture of pus in the belly button can have a thin consistency or it can be sticky and thick. The consistency, the amount, or color of pus should not be used as an indicator of the severity or nature of the infection. A navel infection that produces minimal amounts of light-colored pus can be just as significant as those infections that produce copious amounts of dark pus.