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Managing oral thrush in babies

Faith Gachobe

Have you ever gone to feed your little one and noticed that his or her tongue was unusually white? Well, your baby could have been suffering from an oral thrush. Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast germ called candida. The mouth is a common site where candida causes infection.

Candidal infection in the mouth is called oral thrush. Other common sites for thrush to develop are the vagina, nappy area, and nail folds. According to Gloria Mongare of Kenwick Hospital in Bomet, small numbers of candida organisms commonly live on healthy skin and in a healthy mouth. They are usually harmless. However, an overgrowth of candida can occur in the mouth of some babies.

This can cause oral thrush. “This overgrowth may happen because the baby’s immune system is still quite immature and so it cannot control the candida levels. Another possible cause for oral thrush infection is if a baby has had a recent course of antibiotic medication because the antibiotics can kill off healthy germs (bacteria) that live in the baby’s mouth,” says Mongare.

Although oral thrush mostly occurs in children below 10 weeks, it can also occur in older babies. It does not mean that your baby has bad oral hygiene or is unwell. White spots usually develop in your baby’s mouth and on their tongue.

The spots may join together to form larger spots called plaques. They may become yellow or grey. Your baby may not be bothered by the infection. However, sometimes his or her mouth becomes sore.

Some babies may drool saliva, or refuse to feed properly because of soreness. In many babies, no treatment is needed and the infection clears itself in a few days. In case the thrush is stubborn, an oral gel or drop is prescribed to be used as often as the doctor advises.

See your doctor if the thrush has not cleared within seven days of starting treatment. To minimise the chances of a recurrent infection, Mongare’s advice is that you should regularly sterilise all dummies and other mouth toys used by your baby and if you bottle-feed, regularly sterilise all feeding equipment, especially teat.

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