Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth that is caused by a fungal microorganism called Candida albicans. It is most common in infants and is generally not a serious condition in itself. However, it can be uncomfortable and lead to difficulties with infant feeding if it does not resolve or is not treated.
Candida albicans is commonly found in the oral cavity of a majority of population and is kept under control by other bacteria. However, some factors or conditions may result in an overgrowth of Candida albicans.
Exposure of an infant can occur in two ways
1) through a vaginal thrush infection
2)It can also transfer to a breastfeeding infant’s mouth through an infection in the mother’s nipples
Symptoms of oral thrush in babies
Thrush appears as whitish, velvety lesions in the mouth and on the tongue which cannot be scraped off easily.
Underneath the whitish material, there is red tissue that may bleed easily. The lesions can slowly increase in number and size.
The first sign may be that the baby is unsettled, especially when feeding (his mouth is sore). However, many babies are not bothered by thrush.
Signs of thrush can occur suddenly. Thrush can also be difficult to get rid of, especially in infants.
Treating babies for oral thrush
If you think your child may have thrush in the mouth, visit your pediatrician or a pediatric dentist for a check up and treatment plan
The treatment may be drops or a gel which needs to be applied both on infant’s mouth and on mother’s nipples.
In many cases, the lesions disappear within two weeks and may need no treatment other than careful observation. It may or may not affect feedings hence a visit to the doctor is always recommended.
Preventing oral thrush
The steps below may help to prevent infection:
To prevent infection in a newborn, pregnant women must consult their doctors in case of symptoms like white discharge, itchiness and burning
Nursing mothers may have symptoms like pain or nipple discharge. cracked, flaky or sensitive nipples and areola that is red or shiny are all symptoms of nipple thrush.
If your baby uses a pacifier or teething rings , sterilise them regularly.
If you bottle-feed your baby, sterilise the bottles and other feeding equipment regularly, especially the nipples.
To clean away any residual milk in the mouth one can use a soft muslin cloth dipped in sterilised water wrapped around your finger. Be careful while gently yet thoroughly moving your finger over your baby’s cheeks, gums and tongue.
If you are breastfeeding, wash your nipples with water and dry them thoroughly between feeds.