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Thrush is a common infection of the mouth and tongue caused by the yeast Candida albicans. Thrush appears as white patches that look like cottage cheese or milk curds. When the patches are wiped away, the surface looks red and raw and may bleed.
Thrush occurs when a yeast grows out of control. Babies get thrush because their immune systems aren't strong enough to control the yeast's growth. Older people get thrush because their immune systems weaken with age. People who take certain medicines or have certain health problems are more likely to get thrush.
The most common symptoms of thrush are white patches on the inside of the mouth and tongue. They look like cottage cheese or milk curds. Some babies may be cranky and may not want to eat. Adults may have a burning feeling in the mouth and throat or a bad taste in their mouth.
In most cases, doctors can diagnose thrush just by looking at the white patches. The doctor will also ask you questions about your or your child's health. If your doctor thinks that another health problem, such as diabetes, may be related to thrush, you may also be tested for that condition.
In babies, thrush is usually treated with prescribed antifungal medicine such as nystatin liquid. In most cases, you will put the medicine directly on the white patches. The yeast can cause a diaper rash at the same time as thrush. Your doctor may prescribe nystatin cream or ointment for your baby's diaper area.
In adults, antifungal medicine that goes directly on the white patches, such as a liquid or lozenge, is usually tried first. If these medicines don't work, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal pill. People with weakened immune systems may need to keep taking antifungal medicine to prevent thrush.
You get thrush when a yeast called Candida grows out of control. Candida is normally found in small amounts in the mouth and other mucous membranes. It usually causes no harm. But when the yeast is able to grow uncontrolled, it invades surrounding tissues and becomes an infection.
Here are some tips for how to help prevent thrush in infants.
This will decrease your baby's risk of getting thrush during delivery.
And keep all prepared bottles and nipples in the refrigerator to decrease the likelihood of yeast growth.
Yeast may have had time to grow on the nipple.
Or run them through the dishwasher.
A wet diaper area provides a good environment for the yeast that causes thrush to grow.
Breast milk contains antibodies that will help build your baby's natural defense system (immune system) so your baby can resist infection.
If your nipples become red and sore, or you have breast pain during or after nursing, it may be a sign that a thrush infection in your baby has spread to your nipples.
If your baby needs medicine to treat thrush, don't put the medicine dropper in the baby's mouth. Drop the medicine on a cotton swab and swab it on the affected area. Throw away the swab, and don't put anything back into the medicine bottle that could be contaminated with the yeast.
Here are some tips for preventing thrush.
This includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.
Soak them each night in a chlorhexidine solution. You can get it from your pharmacist. You can also use a denture cleaner that is sold in most drug or grocery stores. Scrub your dentures with water both before and after soaking them. If you used chlorhexidine to soak your dentures, don't use fluoride toothpaste for at least 30 minutes after you put your dentures back in your mouth. (Fluoride can weaken the effect of chlorhexidine.)
Antibiotics can throw off the balance of bacteria in the mouth and can allow the growth of the yeast that causes thrush.
These include diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or cancer.
Rinse your mouth after you inhale the dose.
Thrush can be a mild infection that causes no symptoms. If a baby has symptoms, they may include:
The white patches look like cottage cheese or milk curds. Thrush is often mistaken for milk or formula. The patches stick to the mouth and tongue and can't be easily wiped away. When rubbed, the patches may bleed.
If the infant can't eat because of a sore mouth or throat, he or she may act fussy.
The infant may refuse to eat, which can be mistaken for lack of hunger or poor milk supply.
This may occur because the yeast that causes thrush also will be in the baby's stool.
Thrush can be a mild infection that causes no symptoms. If an adult has symptoms, they may include:
This occurs at the start of a thrush infection.
The patches look like cottage cheese or milk curds. The tissue around the patches may be red, raw, and painful. If rubbed (during tooth brushing, for example), the patches and the tissue of the mouth may bleed easily.
Some adults say they feel like they have cotton in their mouth.
If you breastfeed, you may get a yeast infection of your nipples if your baby has thrush. This can cause sore, red nipples. You may also have a severe burning pain in your nipples during and after breastfeeding.
Call your doctor today if you or your child has been diagnosed with thrush and:
Thrush in an infant's mouth can spread to the breast of the nursing mother. This can cause nipple redness and pain. Contact your doctor if you have redness and pain in the nipples in spite of home treatment or if you have burning pain in the nipple area when you nurse. Your doctor will likely examine your baby's mouth to find out if thrush is causing your symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with thrush before and you believe you may have it again, home treatment may help. Very mild cases of thrush may clear up without medical treatment.
In healthy infants, thrush usually isn't a serious problem and is easily treated and cured. Except for the mildest cases, you should treat thrush to keep the infection from spreading.
Thrush is usually treated with prescribed antifungal medicine such as nystatin liquid. In most cases, you will put the medicine right on the white patches.
The yeast can cause a diaper rash at the same time as thrush. Your doctor may prescribe nystatin cream or ointment for your baby's diaper area.
Mild thrush is usually treated until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have gone away. For some severe infections, a longer treatment period may be needed.
Thrush is usually treated with antifungal medicines. These are either applied directly to the affected area (topical) or swallowed (oral).
You will probably use antifungal medicine that goes directly on the white patches, such as a mouth rinse or a lozenge. Treatment usually lasts about 14 days.
Thrush that spreads to the esophagus can cause a more severe infection. This is treated with antifungal pills. A topical antifungal medicine may also be used.
For some severe infections, treatment may last longer than 14 days.
Persistent or recurrent cases of thrush may:
People with weakened immune systems may need to keep taking antifungal medicine to prevent thrush.
Here are some tips for managing thrush at home.
Examples include water or iced tea. You can also eat flavored ice treats or frozen juices.
Examples include gelatin, ice cream, or custard.
You can make the saltwater mixture with 1 tsp salt in 8 fl oz (236.6 mL) of warm water.
Current as of:
February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of: February 9, 2022
John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
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