Oral Thrush in Babies: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Oral thrush in babies is a fungal infection that develops on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. It is usually caused by Candida albicans fungus. This fungus is found normally on healthy skin and in a healthy mouth. However, under certain conditions, candida can overgrow leading to a fungal infection in the mouth. Oral thrush in babies is a common mouth infection that is characterized by white deposits on the inside of chicks, tongue, or palate.

Oral thrush in babies is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from the baby to the mother’s breast during breastfeeding causing burning, itchy, sensitive nipples and deep breast pain during or after breastfeeding. Also, the infection can be transmitted back from the mother’s breast to the baby. So, it is important to treat the infection as soon as possible to prevent any complications.

Causes of Oral Thrush in Babies

The Candida albicans fungus is responsible for the development of oral thrush in babies. The Candida albicans is found normally on the skin, in the mouth, and in the digestive tract without causing any problems. However, in people with weakened immune system, the level of Candida albicans fungus increase in short time, leading to lesions in the oral cavity and on the tongue. This why oral thrush occurs in babies who have an immature immune system, making them less able to resist infection.

Also, there are other causes that can promote the development of oral thrush in babies such as:

  • Antibiotics: oral thrush in babies may occur after treatment with antibiotics. This is because antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in the oral cavity that normally help to control the level of Candida albicans, leading to an increase in the level of Candida albicans fungus.
  • Sharing items: sharing toys that the baby put in his/her mouth with other children may lead to the development of the fungal infection.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: the infection can spread from the infected mother to the newborn at birth.
  • Breastfeeding mothers with infected breast: the infection can be transmitted from mothers to their babies during breastfeeding. Also, the fungal infection can be transmitted back from the baby to the mother’s breast.

Symptoms of Oral Thrush in Babies

Oral thrush in babies appears as white deposits on the inside of cheeks, tongue, or palate. The white deposits can be easily rubbed and the tissue underneath begins to bleed easily. The tissue underneath is red, shiny, and dry. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fussiness and irritability.
  • The baby may have trouble feeding.
  • Poor weight gaining.
  • Nappy rash (yeast diaper rash).

The fungal infection may pass to the breastfeeding mother and she may experience:

  • Sensitive and itchy nipples.
  • Shiny or flaky skin around the nipple (on the darker area).
  • Breast pain during or after breastfeeding

The Diagnosis of Oral Thrush in Babies

The diagnosis can be performed by a dentist, dermatologist, pediatrician, or general practitioner. The diagnosis is based on the visible symptoms.

Treatment of Oral Thrush in Babies

In many cases, oral thrush in babies disappears without any treatment within 2 weeks. The doctor may prescribe antifungal medication (drops or gel) that contains active ingredients such as miconazole or nystatin. The antifungal medication is applied on the affected areas in the baby’s mouth.

If you are breastfeeding and your baby is infected with oral thrush, the doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream or ointment to apply on your nipples, to prevent passing the infection back and forth.

If the baby develops a nappy rash (yeast diaper rash), you should visit the doctor. He/She may prescribe an antifungal medication to use in the diaper area.

Prevention of Oral Thrush in Babies

To prevent oral thrush in babies, you have to:

  • Clean your baby’s mouth and maintain a good oral hygiene.
  • Clean and disinfect toys, pacifiers, or bottles that your baby puts in his/her mouth.’
  • Prevent sharing items such as pacifiers and toys (that the baby put in his/her mouth) between children.
  • Don’t give antibiotics to your baby without a doctor visit.
  • Breastfeeding mothers with infected breast should use the prescribed antifungal cream or ointment.
  • Treatment of vaginal yeast infection before the birth to prevent the spread of infection to the newborn.