Oral thrush, a type of Candida, or yeast, infection, commonly occurs in infants under the age of 6 months. It can occur in toddlers, older children and adults as well. The infection happens when the yeast that is usually present in the mouth becomes overgrown. Oral thrush is usually treated very easily and most toddlers will recover quickly.
Causes of Oral Thrush
An overgrowth of Candida yeast that leads to oral thrush can occur when a toddler takes antibiotics to treat another infection. The antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes the initial infection as well as any beneficial bacteria that usually lives in the mouth. The loss of beneficial bacteria gives Candida room to grow. A toddler may also get oral thrush because his immune system is not completely developed or capable of keeping the levels of yeast in check.
White lumps that look like cottage cheese are a common symptom of oral thrush. The lumps are usually located on the tongue, cheeks and roof of the mouth. They may bleed if you scrape them. A toddler with thrush may have cracked lips at the corners as well. While the lumps may not hurt, your toddler may feel pain when sucking. If the infection spreads to the esophagus, he may feel pain when swallowing.
Diagnosing and Treating Thrush
If your toddler develops oral thrush, take him to see the doctor. The thrush may be the result of another condition that needs treatment. The doctor will take a culture from the toddler’s mouth to confirm the infection. Usually, the toddler will not need any special medications, unless the infection does not clear up or another condition is the underlying cause. If he can handle dairy, give your toddler yogurt with acidophilus to help restore the body’s balance of bacteria and fight the yeast.
While oral thrush is rare in toddlers who are healthy and usually clears up quickly if it does occur, it can be severe if a toddler has another condition. Thrush can spread throughout the body if it does not resolve especially if the toddler has a weak immune system from a disease such as HIV. If you are still breastfeeding your toddler, you may get oral thrush on your nipples and then pass the infection back to your toddler after the initial one clears up.
You can attempt to prevent oral thrush in your toddler by feeding her yogurt with acidophilus on a regular basis. Try to avoid giving her sugary foods, as sugar encourages the growth of Candida. Sterilize any bottle nipples and pacifiers your toddler uses. If you are still breastfeeding, Kids Health recommends asking your doctor for an anti-fungal cream to clear up an infection that occurs on your nipples. Hold off on breastfeeding until the infection is gone. Good dental hygiene is important to keep thrush away as well. Take your toddler to the dentist regularly and brush and floss her teeth daily.