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A to Z: Omphalitis

May also be called: Umbilical Stump Infection

Omphalitis (om-fuh-LY-tis) is an infection of the umbilical stump, the portion of the umbilical cord that stays attached to a baby when the cord is cut.

More to Know

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord carries nutrients and oxygen from a mother to her unborn baby. After the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and a small piece is left attached to the baby. This part, the umbilical stump, usually falls off on its own within 1 to 3 weeks after birth.

In the first few days after birth, the broken skin of the umbilical stump can provide a way for bacteria to enter the baby’s body. If the umbilical stump becomes infected, the infection can spread quickly to the surrounding skin, abdominal wall muscles, and other tissues. This can lead to serious complications that may become life threatening if the infection isn’t treated right away.

Omphalitis usually is treated in the hospital with IV (intravenous) antibiotics.

Keep in Mind

Omphalitis is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Early diagnosis and treatment usually results in a full recovery with no long-term complications.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.