If your baby is irritable and won’t eat, he might have a yeast infection known as thrush. Oral thrush commonly occurs in babies, although it can also affect adults. The condition can be severe in older people, but is usually mild and easily treated in infants. Although thrush is not generally considered a serious problem in babies, give your pediatrician a call if you notice any symptoms so the infection can be treated.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, 2 to 5 percent of babies develop thrush. The condition occurs more often in infants born prematurely. The University of Michigan Health System states that babies can begin showing symptoms of thrush from three to seven days after birth. Since newborns lack a fully developed immune system, their bodies aren’t able to fight off this infection.
Check your baby’s mouth and tongue for white patches resembling cottage cheese. These spots might bleed if you rub them or try to wipe them off. Your baby might experience trouble swallowing due to soreness, leading to a refusal to eat. If your baby can’t feed, she could become fussy. Check your baby’s bottom for sores with pus or red lesions. Thrush can spread to this area through your baby’s stool. Lesions can also appear on the thighs and stomach, as well as the scrotum in boys.
Candida albicans, a yeast that normally resides in the mouth and mucous membranes, causes thrush under certain conditions. Candida passes from mother to baby during delivery. Bacteria in the mouth keep the growth of Candida under control most of the time. A baby can develop thrush if the mother had a yeast infection during delivery. The condition can be common in babies under three months because their mouths do not contain a healthy balance between bacteria and yeast.
Infants with weakened immune systems and chronic diseases that prevent their bodies from fighting infection face a high risk of developing thrush. Babies who have taken antibiotics or steroids also have a greater chance of suffering from this condition. Antibiotics can kill bacteria that keep Candida growth in check, leading to higher amounts of yeast. Steroids might interfere with your baby’s immune system and make it more difficult for his body to fight infection.
Thrush in the mouth can be treated with a topical anti-fungal medicine, such as nystatin liquid. Use a cotton swab to apply the medication directly to the lesions. Oral anti-fungal medications can also be used. An anti-fungal cream or ointment can be used to treat diaper rash caused by thrush.
Clean pacifiers, bottle nipples, and any other objects your baby puts in her mouth in hot water daily. Don’t let your baby drink from a bottle that has been sitting out for more than an hour because yeast might have grown on the nipple. Change your baby’s diaper frequently and keep her bottom exposed to air for 15 minutes at a time several times a day to keep it dry. If your baby is also being treated for a different infection, rinse her mouth with water after giving her antibiotics to prevent yeast from thriving.
If you breastfeed, you and your baby could wind up infecting each other. Thrush can develop on your nipples, resulting in redness or breast pain during or after breastfeeding. You can apply a prescribed anti-fungal medication to your nipples to clear up the infection. You don’t have to avoid breastfeeding during this time. You just need to make sure that the condition is treated so that you don’t re-infect your baby.