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Oral thrush or Oral Candidiasis is a fungal infection most commonly caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans species, a fungal microorganism that normally lives on our skin and mucous membranes.
Candida infections are most common in the first year of life presenting as oral thrush or diaper rash (dermatitis). Candida albicans is not only indicated in pediatric thrush, but also is commonly associated with vaginal yeast infections (vulvovaginitis) in women.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Oral Thrush in Babies?
-Thick, white coating on the baby’s tongue and/or inside cheek(s) that doesn’t scrape off easily
-Infants fussiness, discomfort, or poor feeding
-Mothers may have painful nipples during breastfeeding
-The skin on the nipple/areola becomes discolored (pink or darker in color) and cracked
Do both Baby and Mom Need Treatment?
Creating a pain free breastfeeding experience for mom and baby is highly beneficial and a top priority for the naturopathic doctor treating pediatric thrush. It is possible to pass thrush between mom and baby when breastfeeding. Symptoms as above in both the mom and baby may be a sign of shared infection.
Treating mom and baby concurrently reduces the odds of the infection re-occurring and does not disrupt the vital breastfeeding relationship.
Mothers should be able to breast feed as long as they choose, and immediate intervention to treat the first signs of candida overgrowth can help keep the experience as comfortable as possible.
Pediatric Thrush Risk Factors
While Candida albicans is found on everyone’s skin and mucous membranes, certain medications can disrupt the normal skin microflora relationships and allow other flora species like Candida to flourish. You may call this an opportunistic infection.
Antibiotic medication taken by baby or breastfeeding mom can disrupt the normal flora in both individuals starting in pregnancy. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for mastitis infection and the antibiotics could set off a chain reaction leading to candida overgrowth on nipples that are passed on to baby.
Prevent Pediatric Thrust
-Keep pacifiers and drinking cups/bottles clean.
-Change breast pads often.
-Beware of the risk factors for taking anti-biotics and corticosteroids, work with your naturopathic doctor when anti-biotics and other medications are necessary to mitigate the risk factors.
-Take care of mom, general health and blood sugar control are paramount.
-Focus on eating whole-foods diet and increase foods with anti-microbial properties like garlic and onions, and drink plenty of hydrating fluids.
Naturopathic Treatments for Pediatric Thrush
In specific, Lactobacillus species have been shown to inhibit Candida growth and the every-day acidophilus found in yogurt is also effective. Probiotics with demonstrated strong anti-fungal activity are: L. rhamnosus and L. casei.
You can apply yogurt or powdered probiotics directly to the mother’s nipple and/or inside the baby’s cheeks.
2: Calendula Officinalis Herbal Preparations
Calendula has been shown to promote wound healing in the skin and can be used topically on mother’s affected nipples. I often use Calendula succus (pressed juice of Calendula) or ointment as a natural alternative to the potentially carcinogenic Gentian violet and can be applied topically (“painted”) on the baby’s cheek, tongue, lips and mother’s nipple.
3: Mother’s Diet
Avoid all foods with any added sugar. Fruit should be in moderation and in whole form, no fruit juices fresh or otherwise. Incorporate coconut oil, with its known anti-microbial properties, into your diet. Eat probiotic and fermented foods in addition to following the diet suggestions in the prevention section above.
- Test and Treat Mom for Candida
Stool and breath tests can reveal systemic yeast overgrowth. Naturopathic Doctors are well versed in safe and effective methods to curb yeast overgrowth, restore health gut microflora and ‘heal and seal’ the intestinal lining.
5: Anti-fungal Medication
Left untreated and uncontrolled, candida can spread to other parts of the body including the lungs and heart valves. In some cases, Nystatin may be prescribed which is an anti-fungal medication given directly to the baby to eradicate the candida overgrowth. This medication is not systemically absorbed by the baby and has very few side effects. It also comes in a cream or ointment that can be applied to mother’s nipple.
Diflucan is another (more potent) anti-fungal medication that may also be prescribed by health care providers.
Depending on severity of infection, Naturopathic doctors often start with steps 1-3 before considering a prescription anti-fungal medication.
Families and care givers can work with their naturopathic doctor to prevent and treat pediatric thrush using natural methods that are safe and effective for both mom and baby.
This article is intended for educational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat you or your child. If your child has any medical conditions or health concerns, please consult a naturopathic doctor prior to starting any treatments – a customized approach to treatment is always best. Do NOT give your child any nutritional supplements or medications without consulting a naturopathic doctor or other licensed healthcare professional first.