Thrush Infection Infants

Thrush (also called candidiasis) is a yeast infection. This infection can occur in anyoneadults and childrenbut is most often seen in infants, especially in the first two months after birth. The yeast that causes thrush is present in everyoneon the skin, in the mouth, and in the gastrointestinal tractbut it’s usually kept in balance by the presence of other bacteria and microorganisms.

Causes of Baby Thrush

Thrush in infants is a result of the fungus candida albicans, the same fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections. The fungus is always present, but when an imbalance occurs, the fungus grows out of control.

Most infants acquire the fungus from their mothers during the passage through the birth canal. This explains why most infants with thrush display symptoms of it within the first two months of their lives.

Symptoms of Thrush in Infants

A baby with oral thrush develops creamy white lesions in the mouth. The lesions can appear anywhere in the mouth, but most commonly occur on the sides. The lesions are often painful and may bleed if rubbed or scraped. Because of the pain, babies with oral thrush are fussy when feeding and may pull away from the breast frequently.

Oral Thrush or Milk Residue?

Oral thrush may be mistaken for milk residue. One way to check is to look inside the lower inner lip since milk residue isn’t normally found there. Milk residue can be easily wiped away.

If you’re unsure whether the patch of white on your baby’s tongue is milk residue or thrush, take a gauze-covered finger and gently brush at it. If it wipes away easily, it’s milk residue. If it doesn’t wipe away, or if it wipes away to reveal an inflamed, bleeding area, it’s thrush.

Diaper Rash and Thrush

Bacteria and fungus thrive in warm, moist areas. The area covered by the diaper is usually a warm, moist area. Diaper rash is often the result of a fungal or bacterial infection. Candida albicans is no different. It can infect the skin around the groin. Don’t be alarmed if your baby has a diaper rash, though, as it often goes away in a few days.

Breastfeeding Mothers Beware

Thrush can and does pass between mother and child, especially during breastfeeding. The fungus can cause the breasts and nipples to become inflamed and tender, discouraging the mother from nursing. If you and your baby have thrush, treat both conditions or the fungus will continue to pass back and forth between mother and child.

Treating Infant Thrush

Medications aren’t usually necessary to treat thrush. The fungus usually resolves itself within a few weeks. The mother should wash everything that comes into contact with her breasts or the baby’s mouth in order to prevent re-infection.

In serious cases of thrush, antifungal medication may be prescribed.

If for some reason the thrush is persistent and treatment doesn’t relieve symptoms, thrush may be a result of an underlying disorder. In this case, a doctor will have to treat the underlying disorder in order to treat the thrush.

Resources

Andersson, I. (2004). Ask the midwife: Infant thrush. Willy StreetCo-op Reader.

BabyCenter LLC. (updated 2005). Thrush (0-12 months).

Greene, A. (1996). Thrush.

Hawthorne, A. (updated 2005). Natural remedies for thrush.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (updated 2004). Diaper rash.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (updated 2003). Oral thrush.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (updated 2002). Oral thrush. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (updated 2003). Thrush. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.