About thrush and other yeast infections in children

What is thrush and other yeast infections in children?

What are yeast infections?

What are commonly known as "yeast" infections are caused by various species of a yeast-like fungus called Candida, particularly the species Candida albicans. Yeast organisms are part of the germs (including bacteria) that are normally found on various parts of the body and which ordinarily cause no symptoms.

How do babies get yeast infections?

Many infants acquire Candida infections from their mothers during the process of birth. Yeast exists naturally in the mother's vagina. When the child is delivered through the birth canal, the baby comes in direct contact with the yeast.

Many babies who escape this infection at birth soon acquire Candida from close contact with other family members.

What is oral thrush? What are symptoms and signs of oral thrush?

Thrush is yeast infection of the mouth and throat. Thrush can also be associated with yeast infection of the esophagus. Thrush appears as creamy white, curd-like patches on the tongue and inside of the mouth and back of the throat. As mentioned above, in individuals with impaired immune systems, yeast infections are more common. For example, in a noninfant population, thrush may be a sign of underlying HIV infection.

How do children (and adults) acquire thrush?

Outbreaks of thrush in child-care settings may be the result of an increased use of antibiotics rather than newly acquired Candida infections. In children (and adults) taking antibiotics or steroids (such as cortisone-related asthma medications), the balance of microbes in the mouth can be disturbed. This may cause an overgrowth of Candida, which in turn results in oral thrush.

How does yeast affect diaper rash?

Candida may infect an infant's diaper area and worsen a diaper rash. This is because yeast can grow very readily on irritated, moist skin. The infected skin is usually fiery red with areas that may have a raised red border.

Can thumb sucking cause problems with yeast?

Children who suck their thumbs or other fingers may occasionally develop Candida around their fingernails. This causes redness at the edges of the nails.

Can a nursing mother acquire yeast infections from her infant?

Nursing mothers are at risk for developing Candida infections on their breasts (this is called mastitis) and can be treated with the same medication that is used for infants.

What are the symptoms for thrush and other yeast infections in children?

Most common oral thrush symptoms include:

  • Thrush is characterized by a white coating or white patches on the tongue, mouth, inner cheeks, and the back of the throat. 
  • The tissue under the white patches is often red, raw, and sore. Lesions can be painful and even bleed when scraped. 
  • Oral thrush often looks like cottage cheese or milk curds.
  • Bad breath
  • Cheilosis (Cracking at the outer edges of the lips)
  • Feeling of food stuck in the throat or sore throat
  • Strange or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Burning mouth syndrome: Symptoms of a painful burning sensation, mouth dryness, soreness, tingling, or numbness throughout the mouth and tongue. Symptoms can be associated with an abnormal bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.
  • In severe cases of thrush, the esophagus (food pipe), which leads down to the stomach, may also be involved. This will cause pain with swallowing, fever, shaking or chills, or difficulty swallowing.

What are the causes for thrush and other yeast infections in children?

Many infants acquire Candida infections from their mothers during the process of birth. Yeast exists naturally in the mother's vagina. The baby comes in direct contact with the yeast during delivery through the birth canal.

Many babies who escape this infection at birth soon acquire Candida from close contact with other family members.

What are the treatments for thrush and other yeast infections in children?

Oral thrush and yeast infections, such as Candida diaper rash, are usually treated with the antifungal antibiotic called nystatin (Mycostatin), either by mouth or in a topical cream. Luckily most Candida are very sensitive to nystatin and resistance is rare. Brand names for nystatin preparations include

  • Mycostatin,
  • Mycostatin Filmlok,
  • Mycostatin Pastilles,
  • Nystatin Ointment,
  • Nystat-Rx,
  • Nystop,
  • Pedi-Dri.

For children with diaper rash, diapers should be changed frequently and the child's skin gently cleansed with water and a mild soap, rinsed, and patted dry. Barrier creams or ointments such as Desitin or A&D are helpful. While cornstarch may be recommended for mild diaper rash, it should not be used for children with significantly inflamed skin. High-absorbency disposable diapers may help keep the skin dry. Plastic pants that do not allow air to circulate over the diaper area should not be used, although the diapering system should be able to hold urine or liquid feces.

Is there a cure/medications for thrush and other yeast infections in children?

Thrush and other yeast infections in children can be treated with medicated suppositories and prevented at the earliest by following certain precautions.
1. Antifungal drugs: Thrush is easily treated with an antifungal medicine such as nystatin (Mycostatin®), fluconazole (Diflucan®), or itraconazole (Sporanox®). They are available as a syrup or a pill. The antibiotic nystatin is often prescribed for children with infections such as oral thrush or a Candida-related diaper rash. The specific medicines given for candidiasis vary, depending on the part of the body where the infection is concentrated.
2. IV medicines are prescribed by your pediatrician if candidiasis has spread through the bloodstream. Some of these IV medicines cause uncomfortable side effects, but are still reliable medicine for serious, invasive fungal infections. However, most medications used to treat candidiasis are well tolerated by most children.
3. An antifungal cream is usually recommended for yeast infections in the diaper area, in the vagina, or other places on the skin. You can buy some of these medicines without a prescription.
Here are some ways to help reduce the risk of candidiasis in children:
1. Change diapers frequently and try to keep your child's diaper area as clean and dry as possible.
2. Use antibiotics only when necessary.
Avoid using any home remedies without asking your child’s health care provider first
Rashes, patches that ooze clear fluid, pimples, itching or burning in skin folds or navel,White or yellow discharge from the vagina, itching, redness and burning sensation in the external area of the vagina,Redness, scaling, and painful rashes on the penis,Cracks and/or tiny cuts at the corners of the mouth,Swelling, pain, pus and white or yellow nail that separates from the nail bed
Moniliasis or a yeast infection,Candidiasis,Yeast infections in the vagina or anus
Antifungal drugs like nystatin (Mycostatin®), fluconazole (Diflucan®), or itraconazole (Sporanox®),IV medicine

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