What is thrush?
It may surprise you to learn that everyone already has Candida albicans in their mouths and digestive tracts. Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of this normally occurring fungus.
Although Candida is a normal fungus, newborn babies have weakened immune systems that make them vulnerable to yeast overgrowths. In addition to oral thrush, Candida can also cause diaper rash and vaginal yeast infections.
Symptoms of thrush
The fungal infection will be found in your baby’s mouth. It will appear as a series of white or gray patches on their cheeks, gums, and tongue.
These patches are the most obvious indications and symptoms of oral thrush. They can be a little painful and may affect your baby’s willingness to breastfeed.
The most common symptoms of oral thrush in babies are:
- White spots in the mouth that look like milk residue
- Redness at the corners of the mouth
- Difficulty eating
- Very slight bleeding, especially if you touch the white spots
Causes of thrush
Some children are more prone to oral thrush than others. Your baby could be at risk for thrush if they:
- Use pacifiers often
- Have weakened immune systems
- Were born with a low birth weight
- Have taken antibiotics
- Have asthma
Babies and their breastfeeding mothers may sometimes pass thrush back and forth to one another. This is because mothers sometimes unknowingly develop thrush along their nipples. In other cases, the thrush could be present on a pacifier that hasn’t been cleaned well enough.
More than anything else, hygiene is the first line of defense for preventing and treating your baby’s thrush at home.
Before caring for your child, take the time to:
- Thoroughly wash your hands with water and soap.
- Boil pacifiers and baby bottles in water for 10 minutes after each use.
- Thoroughly wash any drinking cups that your baby uses.
Treatments for thrush
Only a licensed healthcare provider can diagnose oral thrush. Antifungal prescription medicines like nystatin are reserved for stronger cases. This medication is applied with a dropper directly into your baby’s mouth.
Many cases of thrush in babies do not actually need medical intervention. Consult with your doctor before using home remedies for your baby’s thrush. Babies are more sensitive than adults. They react differently to treatments that are intended for adult use.
Certain foods and diets may be recommended depending on the age of your child. Doctors will sometimes suggest you add yogurt that contains lactobacilli to their diet. These healthy bacteria may help treat your baby’s oral thrush by reducing the amount of the Candida albicans fungus in their system.
While other home remedies may be effective against oral thrush in adults, exercise caution when considering them for your baby. The best course of action, when it comes to your baby, is to talk to your child’s pediatrician first, who can confirm whether medication is needed or home treatment will be enough.
Complications of thrush
See your doctor if you notice symptoms of thrush in your baby. They may not prescribe an antifungal treatment, but they will likely examine your baby’s condition and make sure that everything is okay.
Contact your doctor if your baby becomes hesitant about eating or if you notice a thrush infection on your nipples.
Be sure to monitor your baby’s temperature as well. In rare cases, fungal infections may cross into the blood and cause a much more dangerous situation.
See your doctor right away if your baby is a 3-month-old or younger and develops a fever of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prognosis and outlook for thrush
Thrush in babies is very common. It often doesn’t require treatment and responds well to treatment when it does. The condition should only last a few days at the most. Attentive hygiene can keep it from coming back.
Repeated bouts of thrush could be a sign of an underlying condition. Let your doctor know if your baby’s thrush keeps returning so that an evaluation can be scheduled.
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Cincinnati Children's: "Thrush."
Dentaly.org: "What Is Oral Thrush? Candida Home Remedies, Causes and Prevention."
KidsHealth: "Oral Thrush."
Mayo Clinic: "Oral Thrush."
Mount Sinai: "Thrush in Newborns."
Stanford Children's Health: "Thrush (Oral Candida Infection) in Children."
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Thrush (Oral Candida Infection) in Children."
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