The thing about having sons is that eventually – invariably – you will come across those “boy” problems and you won’t know how to deal with it. We’re not talking “boy” problems that the average teenage girl has. We’re talking about problems involving those male parts that we don’t have. I think it’s kind of like how male O&G doctors tend to be more gentle because they cannot identify with what women experience through the whole pregnancy and child birth thing. In my case, I tend to get overly concerned whenever Gavin complains about “owies” relating to his penis.
Oh yes, I should add – since Gavin could talk, I have always encouraged him to use anatomically correct terms for his body parts. If we call an “arm” an “arm” and a “leg” a “leg”, why shouldn’t we call a “penis” a “penis”? Creating special names for our private parts communicates the impression that these are parts of the body that we’re embarrassed to talk about. Since I don’t want my son to grow up being embarrassed to talk about problems relating to his private parts, I felt it was important to get off on the right foot.
Lately, Gavin started telling me that his penis had an owie. The first couple of times, he mentioned that it hurt but he didn’t seem distressed by it, nor could I see anything wrong with it upon inspection. Recently, his penis pains were beginning to cause him a great deal of distress, so much so that he would claw at his penis. There was still no sign to indicate that something was wrong. Gavin was still urinating acceptable amounts daily and his urine stream looked healthy. He didn’t complain of pain while urinating – which is one of the symptoms of penile infections. There was no obvious redness, swelling or discharge. The pain was sporadic and often went away quickly on its own. Nevertheless, when it was present, Gavin seemed particularly distressed.
So I took him to a doctor to get it checked out. The doctor felt it might be a penile infection and prescribed oral antibiotics and an antibiotic cream to apply on Gavin’s penis. He also added that if the problem did not resolve itself, we should consider circumcision. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the diagnosis. Then again, I don’t really know anything about penis problems so who am I to refute the diagnosis? After three days of antibiotics, Gavin complained again about pain with his penis one night when he was in the shower.
So I took him back to Dr Lam for a second opinion. Ever since Gavin finished his last scheduled vaccination, I stopped going to Pantai to see Dr Lam. Since Gavin has rarely been sick – and by sick I mean seriously sick, not your usual cold and flu – it seemed any doctor could handle those usual minor ailments. Half the time I would take Gavin to see the doctor so we could get medications to ease the symptoms and to give Gavin’s grandparents some peace of mind that he had seen the doctor.
Although it took us nearly five hours to see Dr Lam, I think it was worth it. According to Dr Lam, it was likely due to minor infections. Since the penis is often in contact with urine at this age, it is not unexpected that discomforts like this would crop up from time to time. The important thing was that Gavin was healthy and generally in good spirits, his pain was sporadic, there was no pain on urination, and no visual signs of inflammation. He recommended applying the antibiotic cream only when Gavin complained of pain. Oral antibiotics was unnecessary and would only be required if there was a serious infection. It seems that if there was a serious infection, we would know because the penis would be red, swollen and inflamed – any parent would be able to recognise the signs and would be rushing their son to the ER.
As for circumcision, apparently it is also unnecessary. There is a common belief that circumcision helps keep the penis cleaner. This is a myth. According to Dr Lam, the studies have shown no evidence that this is the case. The only reason circumcision would be considered would be personal – religious or otherwise. Looks like it’s sometimes worth battling the long waiting time at the hospital clinics to see a doctor with more experience on such matters.
I should add that I had also performed a search on Google to see what were the other possible causes of “penile pain” and it appears there are any number of innocent reasons why a toddler might complain of penile pain. For instance, toddlers are often confused by the sensations they feel and might report it as pain – some toddlers may be uncomfortable or distressed when they have an erection.