Oral thrush in children

Oral thrush in a child produces a yeast infection in the mouth and throat. A thrush infection is normally found in infants and young children, but it will also occur in older children and adults diagnosed with diseases that affect the immune system.

A child older than 3 who develops an oral thrush infection with no apparent underlying cause should be tested by a doctor.


Thrush is a yeast infection caused by the Candida fungus. A thrush infection is normally found in the warm, moist areas of the mouth and vagina of a child. The Candida yeast is the same fungus that causes a yeast infection in women and diaper rash in children. Thrush is not a contagious infection and affects anyone with a lowered immune system. This is the reason young children and older adults are susceptible.


A thrush infection creates cracking at the corners of the mouth with white sores throughout the mouth. The sores show up on the tongue, inside of the cheeks and sometimes on the gums and tonsils. The sores appear to be creamy and will bleed slightly if scraped or rubbed. A nursing infant will not want to feed, because the sores are painful. While thrush is not contagious, it is possible for a child to pass the infection to the breast of the nursing mother. The mother's nipples will appear red and sensitive and hurt during and after nursing. The areola may flake or appear shiny. Stabbing pain in the breast is common with an infection.


The fungus that causes thrush is common in the body and environment. A thrush infection occurs when the immune system becomes weak due to an illness or by taking medications such as antibiotics. An infant may be exposed to the yeast during a vaginal delivery, because the yeast is present in the vagina. Close contact with family members will also introduce the yeast to an infant or child. The yeast waits in the body for the immune system to weaken.


Medical treatment is not always needed for children who are eating food. Many children respond to adding foods that balance bacteria and yeast in the body and mouth. This includes yoghurt, buttermilk and sour cream. A nursing infant or child with an infection that does not heal will be given an antifungal medication. A mother who is breast feeding will also be treated to prevent the infection from passing back and forth.


It is rare that complications occur from a thrush infection. The infection may return when the immune system is weakened, but it is treatable. Children who suck their thumbs may get a thrush or Candida infection around the fingernail.