What is thrush in babies?
Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. It’s caused by yeast: Candida albicans. Yeast normally exists on the body and in the mouth, but sometimes it grows out of control. When that happens in the mouth, white patches develop on the tongue and the inside of the cheeks.
What are the symptoms of thrush in babies?
A whitish, cottage-cheesy coating of the tongue and inside of the cheeks is the classic symptom of thrush, says Alanna Levine, MD, a pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in Tappan, New York.
“Sometimes parents will confuse it with formula or breast milk that just stays on the tongue, but the difference is that formula or breast milk can easily be scraped off with a tongue depressor, whereas thrush sticks on,” Levine says. “You also see patches of thrush on the inside of the cheeks, and typically formula doesn't collect there.”
Are there any tests for thrush in babies?
Nope. None are necessary. Doctors can easily recognize the distinctive white patches that characterize thrush.
How common is thrush in babies?
Very common -- about 2 to 5 percent of babies get it. Thrush is most common in babies under six months of age.
How did my baby get thrush?
Babies are prone to thrush because their immature immune systems aren’t always able to effectively control yeast. Babies’ mouths are also the perfect breeding ground for yeast: warm and moist, with frequent infusions of sugar from milk and formula. (Yeast love sugar!)
What’s the best way to treat thrush in babies?
A prescription antifungal medication, applied to the inside of the mouth for a few days, can cure thrush. Breastfed babies can pass the infection on to their mothers, so it’s important to check and treat mom as well, if necessary. A yeast infection of the nipple may show up as red, sore or itchy nipples that are cracked and/or as shooting pains in the breast during or after feedings. The same antifungal med that’s used to treat thrush can also be used to treat infected nipples.
What can I do to prevent my baby from getting thrush?
Thoroughly cleaning and sterilizing bottles and nipples may help prevent thrush. Treating yeast infections of your nipples can also prevent thrush in breastfed babies.
What do other moms do when their babies have thrush?
“My six-month-old son got thrush -- he’s on the nystatin liquid drops (for two days now). It’s already going down...I still boil everything, and I’m super-clean! His pediatrician said he makes a lot of yeast and his body doesn't know what to do with it yet. He did have a yeast infection at two months old...kinda made me feel a little better, knowing it wasn’t my fault.”
“We had a nasty case of it for two months, and nystatin did nothing for us, but both of us taking probiotics helped kick it for good. I still take them every day.”
“My baby has had thrush for about two weeks now. We have nystatin that we give him four times a day orally, and we have cream that we put on him every time he poops. He still has a few small spots in his mouth but now is acting like it doesn’t bother him -- but the first week, he wasn’t eating right and was really fussy. We’re just going to keep giving it to him until it’s gone. We boil all his nipples (we use drop-ins so we don't have to do it to the bottles), and every time he gets his meds, we give him a clean, boiled pacifier.”
Are there any other resources for thrush in babies?
American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org
The Bump expert: Alanna Levine, MD, pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in Tappan, New York
See More: Baby Basics , Baby Doctor Visits , Newborn Basics
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Reminder: Medical info on The Bump is FYI only and doesn't replace a visit to a medical professional.