Oral thrush is a yeast infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, which is also responsible for vaginal thrush and nappy rash.
While discovering your baby has oral thrush can be scary, know that oral thrush is common in babies and easily treatable.
What is oral thrush?
Oral thrush is a yeast infection caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, which is also responsible for vaginal thrush and nappy rash. Candida can affect any area of the mucus membrane or moist skin, according to the Reader’s Digest’s Curing Everyday Ailments the Natural Way. Although candida occurs naturally in the body, levels can sometimes increase, which could lead to a bout of thrush. The UK National Health Service states that one in every 20 newborn babies are affected by thrush, rising to one in seven around four weeks. Cape Town-based paediatrician, Dr Deon Smith confirms this, adding that most babies will have oral thrush at some point in early infancy. “Although thrush is not a serious condition, the pain might prevent your baby from feeding properly,” says Dr Smith.
Signs your baby has oral thrush
Your GP or paediatrician will be able diagnose oral thrush by looking in your baby’s mouth. Obvious signs include painful, raised, creamy-yellow patches in the mouth, tongue, roof of the mouth, as well as the insides of your little one’s cheeks, according to Curing Everyday Ailments the Natural Way. When the fungus appears in the mouth, it causes lesions that, when rubbed off, may leave a painfully sensitive area,” explains Your Medical Questions Answered, another Reader’s Digest publication.
How do babies get oral thrush?
“If you had thrush and gave birth vaginally, it could potentially have been passed on this way. Breastfeeding moms who’ve been taking antibiotics are more prone to developing thrush infection, which can then be passed to their babies during breastfeeding. Oral thrush can also affect babies who have recently been on a course of antibiotics. They can then transmit the thrush to their moms while nursing,” explains Dr Smith.
Treatment for oral thrush
Your doctor will prescribe a topical or oral antifungal medicine – either an oral gel, which should be applied to the infected areas with a clean finger after feeds or a liquid. These medications are usually most effective after your baby has had a feed. An oral probiotic will stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your little one’s gut, which helps counter candida overgrowth. Dr Smith points out that when a baby has oral thrush, he’s more likely to get nappy rash. “The thrush passes from your baby’s mouth, through the gut, to the bum. The best way to counter this is with a three-pronged treatment approach, by applying an antifungal gel to your baby’s mouth, giving antifungal medication and an oral probiotic, and by applying a good barrier cream to the affected nappy area.”
How long before symptoms subside?
It could take a week or so for the thrush to clear up. Although oral thrush dissipates quite quickly, it may reoccur, warnsYour Medical Questions Answered. Continue with the medicine for a few days after the thrush has cleared to prevent it from coming back.
Prevention is key
“When it comes to thrush,” says Pretoria-based registered nurse Stephanie Nel, “the first port of call is good hygiene.” To prevent the thrush infection from being passed back and forth, you should sterilise bottles and teats properly, she advises. “Any toys or teething rings your baby likes to put in his mouth should also be sterilised,” she adds. Good to know: Experts advise treating both mom and baby if either develops thrush. Breastfeeding moms can rub antifungal oral gel on their nipples to prevent the thrush from being transmitted to and fro.