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Thrush in babies

Baby holding teething toys
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What does thrush in babies look like?

Oral thrush in babies looks like a white coating on the tongue, lips and inside of the mouth. Their mouths can also appear redder than usual and sore. The coating may look like cottage cheese and it cannot be easily rubbed off. Your baby may not seem to be agitated by the patches, however they may not want to feed or keep detaching from your breast while they feed due to the soreness in their mouths.

Thrush in babies is also associated with nappy rash as this can be caused by the same infection. If your baby or toddler has nappy rash they may have red patches on their bottom or the whole area may be red. Their skin can look sore, be covered in spots or pimples and feel hot to the touch.

What causes thrush in babies?

Babies have a higher risk of developing yeast infections compared to adults, as their immune systems are still developing and they are less able to fight infections. Babies can also develop thrush in their mouths if they have been given antibiotics or if they are being breastfeed and their mother has been taking antibiotics. Antibiotics can affect the levels of good bacteria in your body which can allow fungal infections to develop.

The fungal infection thrush can also cause nappy rash, which results in sore skin and irritation. Fungal infections thrive in warm and damp conditions, so it’s important that you change your baby’s or toddler’s nappy regularly and thoroughly clean the area. Making sure that you wash your hands after changing your baby’s nappy can also stop thrush from spreading. Thrush can be passed through your baby’s digestive system so make sure that you wash your hands before you feed them.

Is thrush contagious from baby to baby?

Thrush is not considered to be contagious and cannot be passed from baby to baby. The risk of them developing the infection can be increased if babies are sharing bottles, dummies or toys that they put in their mouths and the infection is already present. Make sure to regularly sterilise bottles, dummies and toys to help kill any bacteria that could lead to infections.

Can I get thrush from breastfeeding?

If you are breastfeeding thrush can be passed onto you from your baby, this can make your nipples sore and breastfeeding painful, even after you have stopped feeding your baby. Your nipples may appear cracked, discoloured and dry, if you notice these signs make sure to talk to your GP or midwife as they can recommend available treatments. To treat the infection you can apply an anti-fungal cream to your nipples to help them heal, although you’ll need to remove it before you feed your baby.

How do you treat thrush in babies?

If your baby has thrush your health visitor or GP may prescribe antifungal medication, such as miconazole or nystatin. These medicines come in gel or liquid form and are applied directly to the affected areas and get to work to relieve symptoms.

Can thrush go away on its own? 

On average it takes two to seven weeks for thrush to clear up with treatment. However without treatment thrush could be present for much longer. If thrush is not treated it can worsen and spread to other parts of the body.

Why is my baby’s tongue coated white?

If you notice a white coating on your baby’s tongue, it could just be milk. Use a clean finger to gently touch the white patch, if it easily rubs away then it is more than likely milk residue. However if the patch moves to show a red sore patch underneath or blood, then your baby could have oral thrush. It is best to visit your GP or Pharmacist who can offer advice and treatments to easily clear the infection.

Can thrush be passed on by kissing?

While thrush isn’t contagious, it can sometimes be passed on by kissing. The yeast infection can be spread from your mouth to another person’s or vice versa. Just because you have kissed someone with oral thrush it does not mean that you will develop the infection, as many other factors influence the development of thrush.