Thrush: Brief Version

What is thrush?

Thrush is caused by a yeast. The yeast grows around the mouth in areas that are irritated from too much sucking (as when a baby sleeps with a bottle). A large pacifier or nipple can also injure the mouth. A baby fed by a bottle or breast can get thrush. Thrush is not spread to others most of the time. If you are breast-feeding and your baby has thrush, it could cause thrush on your breasts.

A baby with thrush has:

  • White patches on the inside of the lips and cheeks and sometimes the tongue
  • A sticky coating on the mouth that cannot be wiped off

How can I take care of my child?

  • Give medicine.

    The medicine for thrush is called nystatin oral suspension. Your doctor must prescribe it. Give 1 ml of the medicine 4 times a day after meals or at least 30 minutes before you feed your baby. Place the medicine in the front of the mouth on each side. It doesn’t do any good once it’s swallowed.

    If the patches of thrush in the mouth don’t get better in 2 days, rub the medicine directly on the patches. Use a cotton swab. Keep giving the medicine until all the thrush has been gone for 3 days.

  • Decrease sucking time during feeding.

    Only let your baby suck for 20 minutes or less per feeding. If it is painful for your baby to suck on a nipple, try to use a cup for a few feedings. If the thrush comes back after treatment and your child is bottle-fed, switch to a nipple with a different shape and made from silicone.

  • Use the pacifier less often.

    While your child has thrush, only use the pacifier when it’s needed to calm your baby. If your baby is using an orthodontic-type pacifier, switch to a smaller one.

Call your child’s doctor during office hours if:

  • Your child refuses to drink.
  • The thrush gets worse during treatment.
  • The thrush lasts beyond 10 days despite treatment (except white tongue only).
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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