Thrush - Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
Health Education

Thrush : Infection of the mouth in children

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 1 Nov 2014 - 16:38.

Thrush is an absolutely harmless infection, presenting as patches on the sides, roof and sometimes the tongue of a baby's mouth which resembles cottage cheese or milkcurdling.
Thrush is very common in two months and younger babies. It can also affect older babies. Yeast plays an important role in the act of normal digestion and is present in both males and females.  
In normal babies the quantity of yeast has a normal pattern of distribution. However, when there is an imbalance, infection usually sets in. Most infants as they descend down the birth canal come in contact with yeast. 
 
Whenever there is a hormonal change rightafter the birth of a child, it triggers an overgrowth of yeast in the baby’s mouth, resulting in appearance of white patches called thrush. Bacteria invading a baby have some good varieties alsowhich are responsible to keep the growth of yeast incheck. As such, if your child requires administration of antibiotics, they may kill the good bacteria as well, besides the bacteria on which they are supposed to act. This results in unchecked growth of yeast,which is the root of the problem for thrush to appear in the baby’s mouth. A baby can pass on the thrush to the mother if she isbreastfeeding the child,which might result in a painful infection needing a doctor’s attention. Conversely if a mother is on antibiotics she may pass thrush to her child if she is breastfeeding the baby.
 
It is easy to identify that your baby has thrush if you look for the characteristic white patches. To make sure it is thrush gently touch the patch with your clean finger covered with a gauge. If it is a thrush it won’t come off easily. However, if it comes off you may notice a raw area, red in color underneath which might bleed.
 
If you find a white patch on the baby’s tongue, it could be a deposit of milk settling on the tongue and may come clean if you try to remove it. If it is a thrush it will stay put and you should not attempt to remove it lest it should bleed. If you think your baby has thrush call a doctor for confirmation. He might prescribe an oral fungal cream called Nystatin. The medicine has an applicator meant to paint the patches with the medicine. This you
should do many times in a day, for at least 7 to 10 days. It usually takes about a week for the infection to clear.
 
It is always advisable for the mother to apply the medicine as paint on her nipples to avoid infection back and forth to the mother and baby if you are breast-feeding your child.
 
It may not be possible to prevent thrush in a baby if she got it from the mother during birth, which thebaby picks from the birth canal as she descends down the passage to the external world.
 
However, one can prevent future infections if the mother takes care to sterilize pacifiers properly. To avoid thrush on the nipples some doctors advise to keep the nipples dry and clean between breastfeeds.
 
It is rather difficult to pinpoint what exactly is the trigger to cause the infection. If it is a rubber nipple or a pacifier some babies don’t get it and some get it despite taking care to sterilize the rubber nipples or pacifiers. Some people think that prolonged sucking on a bottle or a pacifier can be the cause. A rubber nipple, which is too large for a baby, may cause friction and lead to thrush. All said and done, infants who breastfeed exclusively without the use of bottle-feeds or pacifiers may also end up in thrush. It is therefore difficult to pinpoint any one cause.
 
Thrush by itself may not be dangerous. However, it might give rise to pain over the areas of the patches preventing the baby to suck milk either from a bottle or her mother’s breast. This leads to dehydration and fever. Your doctor might advise crocin drops if your child has fever.
 
However, if the mother notices that the thrush is not disappearing despite treatment for more than 10 days and the child has fever beyond 101 degrees F she should call the doctor at once. This is all the more important if the child is less than 3 months old with a temperature higher than 100+ degrees F, to rule out any serious illness.
 
The key to safeguard from such infection is to maintain cleanliness of all the items used on the baby during feeds, whether rubber nipples, pacifiers or even the mothers nipples during breastfeeding including a careful watch on the effects of antibiotics either on the child or the mother. These methods will at least reduce the frequency or even the intensity of thrush when it does affect a child.
 
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.