How do I treat thrush?

Q: My baby seems to get thrush all the time. What can I do to get rid of it?

A: Thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth that is very common in babies (and their breastfeeding mothers); it looks like white patches on the tongue and inside the cheeks. It happens most often after a baby has taken antibiotics, which can throw the balance of natural bacteria in the mouth out of whack, allowing yeast to grow. Thrush usually clears up in about a week with treatment (usually an antifungal medicine), but sometimes the yeast can be more stubborn and the infection comes back. Your first line of defense is to finish the entire course of treatment, even if your baby starts to look better. Another possible explanation for chronic thrush is that you and your baby are passing the infection back and forth during breastfeeding sessions. Yeast can live on the skin, so if your baby develops thrush, you should treat your breasts as well, even if you don't have symptoms (which include nipple pain, itching and burning, and sometimes a flaky, blistery rash). You should also sterilize all bottle nipples, pacifiers, and breast pump equipment because yeast can remain on these items and re-infect you and your baby. Run them through the hottest setting of your dishwasher or boil them for 20 minutes.

However, if you've done all this and the thrush still wont go away, talk with your pediatrician. In some cases, the problem might not be thrush at all. For example, some babies have bigger, longer taste buds than others, and the inside of their mouths look like they always have thrush. This is especially likely if you've been nursing regularly but have never become infected. The doctor may also want to run some tests to see if your baby has an immune system problem that is preventing the yeast from being killed off completely, although this is very rare.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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