Thrush or oral candidiasis in the newborn: what it is, how to recognize it, how to cure it

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In this article

  • What is
  • Depends on what
  • How it manifests itself
  • How is the diagnosis made
  • Natural cures and remedies

Thrush or oral candidiasis: what is it

Thrush is a common infection that typically affects the oral cavity of children and in particular the tongue. It is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. 

Depends on what

Actually Candida albicans, like other fungi and yeasts, is normally present in the mouth, along with a large variety of bacteria and other microorganisms. Usually, its presence is contained by the action of the immune system and from the equilibrium of the microbial flora, but it can happen that these two factors are weakened or compromised, thus leaving the Candida the possibility of proliferating and causing an infection.

In newborns and infants, thrush is very common precisely because the immune system is not fully mature. Also, it can occur if the baby (or the mother, if breastfeeding) takes antibiotics.

Read also: How to strengthen the immune defenses of children

How it manifests itself

The main manifestation is represented by tiny whitish, velvety vesicles affecting the mouth area - particularly the tongue - in some cases extending to the throat. The blisters tend to merge to form a diffuse one whitish patina. If removed, the whitish patina reveals a redness of the mucous membranes, which can also bleed. 

In some cases the infection extends to thediaper area, causing a particularly annoying dermatitis. 

Often - but not always - this physical manifestation is accompanied by the discomfort and bad mood of the child, who turns out to be more irritated than usual and more prone to cry, or to difficulty in feeding, if the blisters cause pain.

If the mother is breastfeeding, it is possible for candidiasis to pass from the baby to the mother (and vice versa, if the mother is affected first). Symptoms of Candida in mom include severe stinging pain in the nipples, which can be red and shiny. 

Read also: Breastfeeding: What to do if your breasts hurt

How is the diagnosis made

Generally, the pediatrician easily recognizes thrush simply by observing the blisters present in the oral cavity. Only in rare cases may a laboratory culture be necessary to characterize the organism responsible for the infection.

How to intervene: treatments and remedies

In milder forms, thrush can disappear on its own within a few days or you can use special mouthwashes or washing with water and bicarbonate with sterile gauzes. If it does not pass, or in the case of more severe forms, they can be used topical antifungals (which are spread on the oral mucous membranes) or syrup drugs: as always, however, do-it-yourself should be avoided and the pediatrician should prescribe the most appropriate therapy. 

If the mother is breastfeeding and is in turn affected by Candida, mother and baby must be treated at the same time to prevent the fungus from continuing to pass from one to the other and vice versa. 

Sources for this article

  • Thrush in newborns, information material on Medline Plus
  • Thrush and Other Candida Infections, information material from the site

Questions and answers

Thrush: when to worry?

As annoying as it may be, thrush typically resolves on its own or with short therapies, without complications. It is advisable to consult your doctor if it occurs very frequently, because it could be a sign of some other disease. 

Is it possible to prevent thrush?

It is very difficult, but some tricks can help. In particular:

  • carefully clean and sterilize bottles and teats if the baby is being fed with artificial milk
  • periodically clean and sterilize pacifiers and other items that the baby often puts in his mouth
  • carry out a thorough intimate hygiene of the baby to prevent diaper rash
  • treat maternal candida well if the mother is breastfeeding

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  • newborn 4-8 months
  • thrush in the newborn
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