Irritation and inflammation around the penis and testicles can be caused by the sensitive skin in these areas coming into contact with:
- latex condoms and diaphragms
- lubricants and spermicides
- soaps, shower gels and shampoos
- deodorants or feminine hygiene sprays
- disinfectants, antiseptics and ointments
- washing powders or fabric softeners, if underwear is not rinsed properly
- new underwear (especially if it is not made from cotton).
Irritation can also be due to a build-up of sweat and urine from not washing under your foreskin properly, or from scrubbing or excessive washing of the penis.
Fungi like to live in moist, warm places, such as folds of skin. So the groin area should be kept clean and dry to prevent fungal infections. Fungal infections of the groin may be passed on from person-to-person, and can be irritating, painful or itchy.
Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend a cream to treat a fungal infection. Rub it onto the head of the penis and all over the inside of the foreskin for 7-10 days. Keep using it for a week after the infection clears up.
Looking after yourself
- Shower and clean the irritated area in lukewarm water at least twice a day. Carefully pull back and clean underneath the foreskin, as well as the tip of your penis (the glans). Make sure you pat the area dry rather than rubbing it.
- Do not use soap or shower gel, and avoid contact with anything that may have caused, or may worsen, the irritation.
- Use soap-free cleansers or plain water only to wash the area.
- A cool compress may be used to soothe any pain. An ice pack may relieve the irritation, but should not be placed directly against the skin. Try wrapping a bag of frozen peas in a cloth, such as a clean tea towel, and mould this around the swollen area.
- A salt bath can help to soothe any itching or discomfort.
- If you are in pain, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on medicines you can take.
- Avoid any sexual contact until your condition has cleared up as this could make it worse.
- Avoid using any product you think may have caused the irritation.
- If you think the irritation was caused by using latex condoms, try using hypoallergenic condoms that are meant for people with sensitive skin. Speak to a pharmacist or your local sexual health clinic for further advice.
- Suitable treatments may be available from your local pharmacy, but remember to speak to your pharmacist before you purchase and apply any creams or lotions.
- Wash your hands before and after washing to prevent the spread of any infection. Also, do not share your flannel or towel with others.
- Keep the area dry and free from sweat to make it difficult for fungal infections to survive.
- Change underwear daily.
- If you are in pain, get advice from your doctor or pharmacist on medicines you can take.
How to prevent penis irritation
- Pull back the foreskin and wash around the head of your penis and under the foreskin at least once a day.
- Do not use soap in this area. Use water or a soap-free cleanser
- Dry the head of the penis gently before you put on underpants.
- Wash your hands before you go to the toilet, especially if you work with chemicals that could irritate the skin of your penis.
- When you go to the toilet, pull back the foreskin so the urine doesn't get trapped underneath. Dry the end of the penis when you finish.
- Wash and dry the penis after you have sex or masturbate.
- Tell your sexual partner(s) so they can also be examined and treated, if necessary. If there is concern regarding sexually transmitted infections, avoid any sexual contact with others until the infection has cleared.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about penis irritation, why not use healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: September 2017