Did you lately notice a yellowish-white coating on your baby’s tongue or the insides of its mouth? Probably, you would have brushed it off, thinking it is the leftover breastmilk or formula milk after the feed. But, if the white coating doesn’t seem to rub off, it could possibly be an oral thrush.
What Is Oral Thrush
It is a mild fungal infection caused by a notorious germ called Candida albicans. More often seen in infants than adults, it is harmless to the babies. But, if overlooked, it can spread and cause infections in other parts of the body.
How To Identify Oral Thrush
Early signs of oral thrush include a thin white coating on the tongue, palate, and at the back of the mouth. However, an aggravated condition may result in white spots, on the tongue and the gums followed by soreness, which could cause discomfort to the baby. Milk accumulated on the baby’s tongue goes away after an hour or so, in contrast to oral thrush that makes the tongue appear milky white all the time.
Caution: Avoid scrubbing your baby’s tongue. It can make the tongue red and sore and may even cause bleeding.
What Could Be The Causes
The microbes causing oral thrush are one among millions of germs found in the human body. About 75% of the world population carries the Candida germ family in their mouths without any harm.1 Babies have a higher risk of catching an infection due to their developing immunity.
- Our immune system makes use of the friendly bacteria present in our body to keep these fungi in check. If your baby is on antibiotics, the good bacteria in the body get affected, in the absence of which the infection causing germs multiply uncontrollably.
- If the baby is not on medication, it may the antibiotics prescribed to the mother that could make their way through the breast milk to the baby, causing the same effect.
- Sucking on a pacifier or a feeding bottle that is not cleaned properly and regularly could also result in the infection.
- The mother can also pass the infection to her baby while nursing if she has developed nipple thrush or other fungal infections.
Effective Home Treatments
In most cases, mild oral thrush recovers over time. But, it can be treated quickly using simple home remedies. However, if the doctor feels giving home treatment will be effective in curing the infection, that’s when the parents should choose to follow it. Else they should seek medication.
1. Using Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural herbal oil whose anti-fungal effect is well known, especially against fungi and yeast that cause oral thrush.2 Before giving a bath to your baby, mix a drop of tea tree oil in the baby bathtub.
- Don’t forget to dilute your oil with a mild carrier oil, like jojoba oil or olive oil. Never use the herbal oil directly.
- Make sure your baby doesn’t swallow the tea tree oil as it is toxic if ingested.3
- Before using herbal oil, do a skin test to confirm that your baby isn’t allergic to it. Add a drop of tea tree oil in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and apply it on a small area of the skin. Check for any reactions for 24 hours before using the oil.
2. Wiping With Baking Soda Solution
Baking soda, after diluting with water can be applied directly on the affected areas. Boil a cup of water and let is cool down to room temperature. Add half a tablespoon of baking soda to it. Dab the solution gently over your baby’s lips, inside of the cheeks, palate, and tongue. Make sure you use fresh cotton after clearing an area. Keep you baby from swallowing the solution, by making it sit in an upright position.
3. Using Grapefruit Seed Extract
Your baby may not be very pleased with this remedy as the extract is slightly bitter. Again, the water should be boiled and cooled down. Add 7-8 drops of grapefruit seed extract to an ounce of water. Dab the solution over the affected areas after feeding your baby.
When you are opting for home remedies, it is also necessary to take some precautionary measures to avoid the infection from reoccurring.
- You must sterilize the pacifiers, breast pumps, and feeding bottles every time before use.
- The mother must keep her nipples clean and dry as the infection may spread to the nipple from the baby’s mouth and vice versa.
- Mothers are advised to reduce the intake of sugar and sweets and include probiotics like yogurt in their diet.
Note For Breastfeeding Mothers
Since the infection can pass from the baby to the mother, it may increase the risk of getting nipple thrush. The mother is also advised to get treatment along with the baby if she notices symptoms of nipple thrush—itchy or burning sensation in nipples, penetrating pain in the nipples or breast during and after the feed, cracks, and sensitivity in the nipples and areolas (the dark area around the nipples), and change in the color of nipples and areolas. Keep your nipples dry as damp and warm areas of the body are favorable for microbial growth. Wipe your nipples with the baking soda solution when you are giving the same home treatment for your baby’s oral thrush. If the symptoms don’t reduce, consult your doctor for non-fungal creams and medication.
Caution: Remember not to take any medication without a prescription while you are nursing.
If the oral thrush isn’t alleviating and causing discomforts to the baby like pain and soreness in the mouth, it is best to consult your health care provider or a child specialist, who may prescribe anti-fungal medicines that are safe for them.
|↑1||Mayer, François L., Duncan Wilson, and Bernhard Hube. “Candida albicans pathogenicity mechanisms.” Virulence 4, no. 2 (2013): 119-128.|
|↑2||Hammer, K. A., C. F. Carson, and T. V. Riley. “Antifungal effects of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil and its components on Candida albicans, Candida glabrata and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 53, no. 6 (2004): 1081-1085.|
|↑3||Hammer, Kate A., Christine F. Carson, Tom V. Riley, and Jesper Bo Nielsen. “A review of the toxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil.” Food and chemical toxicology 44, no. 5 (2006): 616-625.|