Oral thrush is a common (and usually harmless) fungal infection that occurs in the mouth.
Oral thrush is caused by something known as ’Candida albicans’, a strain of yeast fungus that lives on the skin. While oral thrush can affect people of all ages, it is particularly common in babies – especially during their first year of life, as their immune systems are still developing. Babies born prematurely are also at an increased risk of developing oral thrush.
Oral thrush usually appears as white patches in or around a baby’s mouth and tongue, on their gums, or inside their cheeks. While these patches generally do not bother a baby, they can bleed slightly and become sore, therefore you may have difficulty getting your baby to feed as a result. Babies may also drool more than usual when they have a thrush infection. If you happen to wipe out your babies mouth and the white appearance disappears, then it was most likely milk residue. However, if the white appearance does not go away then that is a telltale sign that your child most likely has oral thrush.
Since there is no known cause of oral thrush, avoiding it can be difficult, but Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, recommends taking some preventive measures including washing any toys your child might put in their mouth, such as teething toys, sterilizing baby bottles regularly, as well as washing your baby’s clothing at a temperature of at least 60 degrees in order to kill any fungus. If you are breastfeeding it is important to keep in mind that your baby could also potentially pass oral thrush to you and cause what’s known as nipple thrush. As a result, you may experience pain while feeding your baby or have irritated skin such as itching or burning around the nipple area – while others may experience no symptoms at all. If you do develop these symptoms, your physician may prescribe you an anti-fungal cream or anti-fungal tablet depending on the severity of the infection.
While oral thrush generally clears up on its own after a few days and doesn’t usually require any treatment, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends seeing your family physician or pediatrician of the oral thrush persists or worsens after 4 or 5 days. If the oral thrush does not go away on its own then your family physician or pediatrician might recommend using an anti-fungal gel or drop to treat the oral thrush, which can be found over-the-counter. However, some of the gels and drops may not be safe for younger babies, therefore it’s always important to check with your pharmacist prior to using them just to be on the safe side.