Thrush is caused by the yeast Candida albicans and it typically forms after either the mother or infant has taken antibiotics, as yeast tends to grow after bacteria in the body are destroyed. If the nursing mother has thrush or a yeast infection of the nipples at the same time the infant does, it’s important to treat both mother and child, as the mother may transfer the yeast infection back to the child during feeding. Most cases of thrush are considered non-threatening, as the disease itself is easily treated at home and often clears up without medication. But severe cases of thrush can cause dehydration and (rarely) fever, and should be treated by a doctor right away. Knowing how to identify problem signs of thrush, as well as how to treat mild cases at home, can help keep your baby happy and healthy.
Treating Thrush With Natural Remedies
Talk with your child’s pediatrician. Before you proceed with any natural or homemade remedies, check with your child’s pediatrician. The doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis and give you a professional medical opinion about what treatment will be best for your infant. While many home treatments for thrush appear to be safe, keep in mind that your baby’s digestive and immune systems are still fairly immature, and your pediatrician may want to proceed with caution.
2Give your child acidophilus. Acidophilus is a powdered form of the bacteria typically found in a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Yeast and intestinal bacteria balance each other in the human body, and often taking antibiotics or developing thrush allows a spike in yeast growth. Taking acidophilus may help reduce yeast growth and treat the causes of thrush in infants.
- Make a paste by combining acidophilus powder with clean water or breastmilk.
- Rub this paste in the baby’s mouth once daily until the thrush clears up.
- You can also add one teaspoon of acidophilus powder to formula or breastmilk if the child is bottle feeding. Administer acidophilus once daily until the thrush clears up.
3Try yogurt. If your child is able to swallow yogurt, your pediatrician may recommend that you add unsweetened lactobacilli yogurt to your child’s diet. This works similarly to acidophilus, by balancing out the yeast population in your child’s gastrointestinal tract.
- If your child is not old enough to swallow yogurt, try applying it with a clean cotton swab to the affected area. Only use a small amount of yogurt and supervise your child closely to ensure that he does not choke on the yogurt.
4Use grapefruit seed extract (GSE). Grapefruit seed extract, when mixed with distilled water and administered daily, may help treat the symptoms of thrush in some children.
- Mix 10 drops of GSE in one ounce of distilled water. Some doctors believe that the antibacterial treatment of tap water may reduce the efficacy of GSE.
- Use a clean cotton swab to apply the GSE mixture to your child’s mouth once every hour during all waking hours.
- Swab the child’s mouth prior to nursing. This may help reduce the bitter taste associated with nursing while the child is afflicted with thrush, and can help him return to a normal feeding schedule.
- If the thrush does not improve significantly by the second day of treatment, you may try increasing the strength of the GSE mixture by dissolving 15 to 20 drops of GSE into one ounce of distilled water, instead of the original 10 drops.
5Use pure, virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, which may help fight the yeast infection that causes thrush.
- Use a clean cotton swab to apply coconut oil to the affected area.
- Consult with your pediatrician before trying coconut oil, as some children may be allergic to coconut oil.
6Make a baking soda paste. A baking soda paste can help treat thrush at the site of affliction, and can be used both on the mother’s nipples (if nursing) and on the child’s mouth.
- Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with eight ounces of water.
- Apply the paste to the mouth with a clean cotton swab.
Treating Thrush With Medicine
1Administer miconazole. Miconazole is often the go-to treatment option for pediatricians treating thrush. Miconazole comes in a medicated gel that a parent or caretaker will need to apply to the baby’s mouth.
- Wash your hands with antibacterial soap. You will need to have clean hands before applying any medication to your child.
- Administer 1/4 of a teaspoon of miconazole to the affected areas of the child’s mouth, up to four times daily. Use a clean finger or a clean cotton swab to apply miconazole directly to the affected site.
- Do not use too much gel, as it may cause a choking hazard. You should also avoid administering the gel in the back of your child’s mouth, as it could easily slide down his throat.
- Continue miconazole treatments until your pediatrician tells you to stop.
- Miconazole is not recommended for infants under six months of age. The risk of choking is significantly increased in children younger than six months.
2Try nystatin. Nystatin is often prescribed instead of miconazole, especially in the US. It is a liquid medication that is administered to the affected area in a child’s mouth using either a dropper, medication syringe, or a clean cotton swab coated in nystatin.
- Shake the bottle of nystatin before administering each dose. The medicine is suspended in liquid, so it’s important to shake the bottle so that the medicine is evenly distributed throughout the bottle.
- Your pharmacist should give you a dropper, syringe, or spoon to measure and administer nystatin. If your pharmacist has not given you a tool for measuring and administering nystatin, follow the instructions that came with the medicine.
- If your child is small, your pediatrician may recommend that you administer half a dose to each side of the child’s tongue, or she may recommend that you use a clean cotton swab to apply the liquid to the sides of your child’s mouth.
- If your child is old enough to follow your instruction, have the child swish the nystatin around his mouth to thoroughly coat the entire surface of the tongue, cheeks, tongue, and gums.
- Wait five to ten minutes after administering nystatin before feeding your child, if it is near his meal time.
- Administer nystatin up to four times daily. Continue administering the medication for up to five days after thrush has cleared up, as thrush commonly recurs shortly after treatment ends.
- Nystatin rarely causes side effects like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or stomach discomfort, or may cause allergic reactions in some children. Talk to your pediatrician about the possible side effects of nystatin before administering the medication to your child.
3Try gentian violet. If your child hasn’t had any luck with miconazole or nystatin, your pediatrician may recommend that you try gentian violet. Gentian violet is an antifungal solution that is applied to the affected area using a cotton swab. It is available in most pharmacies without a prescription.
- Follow the dosing recommendations on the bottle or from your pediatrician.
- Apply gentian violet to the affected areas using a clean cotton swab.
- Administer gentian violet two to three times daily for at least three days.
- Be aware that gentian violet will stain both skin and clothing. Gentian violet may cause your child’s skin to appear purple while treating him with gentian violet, but this will clear up once you’ve discontinued use of the medicine.
- Talk to your pediatrician about using gentian violet, as some children may be allergic to the medication or to the dyes and preservatives used in gentian violet.
4Talk to the pediatrician about fluconazole. If other methods fail, your doctor may prescribe your baby fluconazole, which is an antifungal medication that the child swallows once daily for seven to 14 days. It will slow the growth of the fungi causing your infant’s infection.
- Follow your pediatrician’s instructions on dosage.
Administering Home Care For Thrush
1Understand thrush. Though thrush can be painful for your child and difficult for you as his parent, know that in most cases thrush is not particularly harmful to the child. Some cases of thrush clear up without medical treatment within one to two weeks. More severe cases may take up to eight weeks to heal without treatment, while a pediatrician’s care can help thrush heal in as little as four to five days. However, sometimes thrush involves more serious complications, and could be indicative of a more severe problem. Contact your pediatrician immediately if your child:
2Reduce bottle time. Prolonged sucking on a bottle’s nipple may irritate your infant’s mouth, making him more prone to an oral yeast infection. Limit bottle time to 20 minutes per meal. In severe cases of thrush some infants may be unable to use a bottle due to mouth pain. If this occurs you may need to switch to a spoon or syringe instead of a bottle. Talk with your pediatrician to find the best way to avoid further irritating your infant’s mouth.
3Limit pacifier use. Pacifiers are a great way to soothe an infant, but the constant sucking associated with pacifier use may cause irritation to your child’s mouth and make him more prone to a yeast infection.
- If your child has or has had thrush, only give him a pacifier when nothing else will calm him down.
4Sterilize nipples, bottles, and pacifiers if your baby has thrush. To prevent the spread of thrush, it is important you keep milk and prepared bottles in the refrigerator to prevent yeast growth. You must also clean nipples, bottles, and pacifiers throughly with hot water or in a dishwasher.
5Talk to your doctor about discontinuing antibiotics. If a nursing mother develops thrush from taking antibiotics or steroid treatments, she may need to stop taking those medications or reduce the dosage until the thrush clears up. However, this should only be done if discontinuing or reducing the dosage of antibiotics or steroids will not cause medical complications for the mother. Talk to your doctor if you believe your medication is causing thrush.
- This applies to any medications the infant is taking as well.
How long should it take to cure?
With the proper medication and care, you will begin to see improvement in as little as two weeks.
Will antibiotics help with thrush in infants?
No, it can actually make it worse. Antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in the body, which in turn causes a yeast infection (thrush).
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- Infants with thrush can also have a yeast infection in the diaper area. This causes a red and sometimes painful diaper rash. Your doctor will usually prescribe an antifungal cream for diaper rashes caused by yeast.
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