Thrush



Thrush is an infection that causes raised white patches in the mouth and throat that can look like cottage cheese. It is caused by the Candida albicans fungus that also causes diaper rash and vaginal yeast infections.

KEYWORDS

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Candidlasis

Infection

Moniliasis

Mycotic stomatitis

What Is Thrush?

Candida albicans is a single-celled fungus that is a natural inhabitant of the mouth. Usually, the body maintains a natural balance of microbes * in the mouth. But if that natural balance has been disturbed, Candida and other fungi may begin to grow in the warm moist environment of the mouth and throat. Other names for thrush are oral candidiasis (kan-di-DY-a-sis) and oral moniliasis (mon-i-LY-a-sis).

Thrush and the immune system

Thrush is common in newborns. In older children, and adults, it may be a sign of an immune system disorder. People whose immune systems have been damaged by the AIDS virus, for example, may develop thrush. People who are treated with antibiotics for bacterial infections and people who use steroid inhalers for asthma may also develop thrush.

Neonatal thrush

Infants may get thrush during childbirth, if their mothers have vaginal yeast infections, or they may get thrush from bottles or nipples or family members with contaminated hands. Thrush looks like white patches of cottage cheese on the tongue, palate (roof of the mouth), inner cheeks, or throat. If the white patches of thrush are scraped, however, the sores will bleed, and infants may refuse to suck because of pain in the mouth. Candida also causes diaper rash, but those sores are reddish rather than white.

* microbes are small organisms that usually can be seen only under a microscope. They include bacteria, protozoa, and fungi.

How Is Thrush Diagnosed and Treated?

Thrush usually goes away by itself. Because thrush may be a sign of an immune system disorder, however, it is important to check with a doctor

Candida albicans coats the tongue of this infant, who has thrush. Infants with thrush may refuse to suck because of pain in the mouth, or they may spread the infection to their fingernails if they suck their thumbs. Dr. P Marazzi/Science Photo Library, Photo Researchers, Inc.
Candida albicans coats the tongue of this infant, who has thrush. Infants with thrush may refuse to suck because of pain in the mouth, or they may spread the infection to their fingernails if they suck their thumbs.
Dr. P Marazzi/Science Photo Library, Photo Researchers, Inc.
or dentist, who may identify the yeast under a microscope, check for possible causes, and suggest ways to prevent its recurrence.

Thrush usually is treated by prescription medication, taken orally or applied directly to the sores, and by careful hygiene, which includes frequent hand washing, frequent diaper changes, and use of mouth washes.

See also
AIDS and HIV
Asthma
Fungal Infections
Immunodeficiency
Yeast Infection, Vaginal

Resource

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posts ABCs of Safe and Healthy Child Care at its website, which includes a fact sheet about thrush.
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/hip/abc/facts43.htm

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