mom holds fussy baby who may have oral thrush

PREVENT

A parent’s guide to oral thrush: Symptoms, causes and treatments

  • Oral thrush is a common fungal infection in the mouths of babies and young children.
  • Candida is the type of fungus or yeast that causes thrush.
  • Candida normally lives in and on our bodies. Too much candida can cause problems in your mouth, GI tract or skin.

Is your baby fussy, especially when feeding? Does your toddler complain that it hurts to swallow? Have you noticed white splotches or a white coating on your child’s tongue, inner cheeks or lips? These could all be signs that your little one has a case of oral thrush, a common fungal infection in young children.

Causes of oral thrush

Oral thrush is a common fungal infection in the mouths of babies and young children. It is caused by “candida” fungus, which is normal in all of us. However, too much candida can cause problems in your mouth, GI tract or skin such as diaper rash in babies and vaginal yeast infections in adults. If you breastfeed, both mom and baby may get thrush.

Candida fungus is a problem when it grows out of control. This can be caused or spread by:

  • a weak or “new” immune system
  • after a course of antibiotics that can temporarily decrease the “good” bacteria in your body that works to
    keep candida from overgrowing
  • bottle nipples and pacifiers
  • a vaginal yeast exposure at the time of delivery
  • inhaled medicines to treat conditions such as asthma.

Symptoms of oral thrush

Common symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • a white, cheese-like coating on your child’s tongue, cheeks, lips, gums or roof of the mouth
  • cracking and bleeding skin in the corners of the mouth
  • diaper rash may also be present

Not sure if your child has thrush? It’s common for a white film to remain in your infant’s mouth for a short time after feeding. If you can easily wipe off this film with a washcloth, rest easy. If the area is red, sore or blistered, it may be oral thrush. If it doesn’t clear up within a few days, contact your health care provider.

Treatments for oral thrush

Medicine prescribed by your health care provider should clear up thrush symptoms in 7 to 14 days.

  • For babies, a liquid antifungal may be prescribed. It can be given by mouth with a dropper or wiped directly on the white patches.
  • Older children and nursing moms may be prescribed medicine in pill form.
  • Over-the-counter antifungal creams and ointments with clotrimazole can be used to treat diaper rash and on mom’s breasts.
  • Older children and adults may benefit from adding yogurt with active lactobacilli to your diet. This good bacteria may help control a yeast infection.

Learn more important child care information with our Guide for the Care of Children.

Prevent the spread or return of oral thrush

To prevent thrush from spreading or coming back, you should:

  • clean infected bottle nipples and pacifiers in hot water or dishwasher after use
  • clean and sterilize breast pump and parts after each use
  • refrigerate pumped breast milk until use to reduce risk of yeast growth
  • wash your hands well with soap and warm water after nursing or caring for your child
  • wash your child’s hands often
  • wash cups, plates and utensils after each use
  • wash towels, clothes and bras that have come in contact with candida.

Thrush and breastfeeding mothers

If you breastfeed, both you and your child can get thrush. You should both be treated at the same time. Symptoms of thrush in nursing mothers include:

  • burning, itching, stinging pain during nursing that does not improve by adjusting the baby's latch
  • pain in the breast and nipple area after and between feeds
  • cracking, bleeding, redness, flaking or blistering of your nipples.  

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