Oral Thrush in babies: Causes, Symptoms, and treatment

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If you notice white patches in your baby’s mouth, if he/she has been extra cranky during feedings - it isn’t surprising! This is a common childhood infection caused by Candida albicans, a type of yeast, known as oral thrush. But don’t worry, oral thrush in babies isn’t that serious. Having said that, it can still be quite uncomfortable for your baby. In this article, let us explore this fungal infection better.

What is an oral thrush?

Oral thrush is caused by the white-colored Candida fungus that usually can live anywhere in the body without being problematic. However, sometimes it can grow out of control and become a thrush. Candida overgrowth or thrush can occur in the gut, the vagina, the throat, the esophagus, and in babies it can commonly occur in the mouth.

Causes of oral thrush in babies

Oral thrush in babies does not have a specific cause, but it is possible because during the first few weeks or months the immune system is not adept to fight infection. Therefore, it can often occur following a course of antibiotics - this is because while antibiotics fight infections, they also tend to reduce the levels of healthy bacteria in the body. So, this means that the fungi find it easier to grow during this time. Oral thrush can also occur post steroid medication usage.

Another possible cause is that the baby picked it up from the birth canal if the mother had a vaginal yeast infection - which is a common side effect during pregnancy, caused due to hormonal changes in the body.

Symptoms of oral thrush in babies

It is easy to spot an overgrowth of the Candida fungus - all you need to do is peep inside your baby’s mouth. Here are some common symptoms of thrush in babies:

  • White patches or sores on the tongue, gums, or the insides of the mouth

  • Cracked corners of the mouth

  • Red, easily bleeding tongue

If your baby’s tongue is white, don’t immediately assume it is a thrush - it could just be white due to milk residue after feeding. Here is what you can do to test it - take a piece of gauze and gently try to wipe away the marks on the tongue. If they wipe off easily, then relax, it is not a thrush. However, if it seems red, sore, or bleeding easily, then it is a thrush.

Maintaining dental hygiene and proper oral care is as important for babies as it is for adults. Although babies don’t have teeth, you must wipe their gums with a clean towel at an early age. And once your little one grows older, the Oral-B kid’s electric toothbrush is great for brushing baby’s teeth and maintaining daily oral hygiene. It comes equipped with a gentle mode for children and a small head to easily reach inside tiny mouths and effectively clean it.

Thrush in babies can also be found in other places - the diaper area is the most common breeding ground for yeast infections. Also, if your baby does have an oral thrush, it can be transferred on to your nipples during breastfeeding - be on the lookout for burning, sore nipples, and itchy and flaky skin around the nipples. It is also possible to experience sharp, shooting pains in the breasts during or after feeding - these are all the signs of thrush on your nipples.

Treatment for oral thrush in babies

Once you have identified a thrush, you need to start with the treatment process for your baby. Here are some options for oral thrush treatment:

  • Medical inervention:

    The first thing you must do is consult the doctor, who may prescribe some antifungal medications in the form of drops and gel to treat the thrush. Usually these medicines contain nystatin, and they must be applied on the tongue and inside the mouth a few times during the day for ten days. You can do this with the help of a sponge applicator to spread the solution on the tongue.

  • Home remedies:

    There are quite a few home remedies for oral thrush that are available, but it is still better to consult your pediatrician before using any method. Here are some common home remedies for oral thrush -

    1. Tea tree oil: Take half a cup of boiled and then cooled water and put 1-2 drops of tea tree oil in it. Then, apply it with a clean cotton bud.

    2. Baking soda: Once again, take half a cup of boiled and cooled water, and add half a teaspoon of baking soda to it. Then use a clean cotton bud and wipe the solution inside your baby’s mouth.

    3. Virgin coconut oil: Some studies show that applying virgin coconut oil can also be useful in treating an oral thrush.

    Oral thrush is treatable with the right medical care. Consult the doctor and start the treatment as soon as you notice the signs of oral thrush in your baby. It is also important to take care of the baby’s oral health in general. Make sure you gently wipe your child’s gums and teeth in infancy every day. And when the child grows older, it is important to inculcate a good oral care routine early on.