Oral thrush is an infection caused by the yeast fungus known as Candida albicans and is a common illness in newborn babies. The fungus is also referred to as candidosis and moniliasis, but generally these terms describe the appearance of candida albicans in adults. This article will focus on the causes and symptoms of oral thrush in newborns as well as methods of treatment.
It may be helpful to first understand some background information on exactly what oral thrush is. Microorganisms exist everywhere in our environment and usually bacteria, viruses and fungi form a symbiotic relationship with the human body. These microorganisms are beneficial to the health of babies and adults alike and the body allows them to remain present. The fungus that causes oral thrush does not have a symbiotic relationship with the human body. Candida albicans usually works its way into the body when the immune system is in a diseased or weakened state. In their first few days of life, newborn babies are especially at risk from infections such as oral thrush.
Two specific causes of oral thrush are a reaction to antibiotics and transmission from a mother with a yeast infection. The mouth of a postnatal baby undergoes certain changes following a dose of antibiotic medication that create a breeding ground for a fungus to develop. It is also possible for a mother to pass on a yeast infection to her child in the form of candidosis. The transmission occurs from exposure in the birth canal and oftentimes results in infection when the baby is from two to ten weeks old.
Diagnosing babies is usually done using the clinical picture. This means that doctors are generally able to diagnose the infection on sight alone. Oral thrush manifests itself in the form of painful white lesions on the inside of the baby's mouth. These patches appear on the gums, insides of cheeks, palates and tongue. It is also possible for thrush lesions to work their way into the esophagus. Doctors use throat cultures, endoscopic examination and barium swallow to help diagnose an oral thrush infection that has progressed to this degree.
Nipple damage due to breastfeeding can lead to an elevated risk of Candida infection. Although the nipples and areola may not show signs of an infection certain symptoms can help indicate that one is occurring. One or both nipples may be experience stinging pain or itching. Visible signs that a mother has a Candida infection include nipples with white dots, a skin rash with small fluid filled blisters, swelling and cracking of the skin.
If a doctor has reason to believe that an infant has oral thrush, he or she may send a cell sample from the baby's tongue to a lab for analysis and confirmation. The use of a lab sample can help ensure that there are no other illnesses causing complicating a thrush infection.
When oral thrush or a yeast infection has been diagnosed, both the mother and her baby should be treated simultaneously. Coordinating care for both the mother and child helps avoid the risk of the infection being passed back and forth.
Medications for yeast can be systemic (internal) or topical (external). Often physicians will begin curing a yeast infection with a topical drug, followed by a more powerful systemic if necessary. Fluconazole is antifungal cream used to treat a mother's breasts that have come into contact with a baby experiencing oral thrush. Some examples of commercially available anti-fungal drugs include Nystatin, Lotrimin and Itraconazola. Oral thrush is often treated with Nystatin by application to the inside of the infant's mouth several times daily. For complete treatment information speak with your pediatrician.
By paying close attention to the warning signs and symptoms of an oral thrush infection, mothers can reduce the complications caused by this illness. As with all concerns related to the health of your newborn, always rely on the suggestions and information provided by your pediatrician. With treatment time and concern you and your child can overcome the challenge of an oral thrush infection.
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