Oral Candida Infection (Thrush) in Your Child

Candida is a type of fungus. It is found naturally on the skin and in the mouth. If Candida grows out of control, it can cause mouth infection called thrush. Thrush is common in infants and children. Thrush is not a serious problem for a healthy child.

Who’s at risk?

Thrush is common in infants and toddlers. Risk factors for infant thrush include:

  • Very low birth weight

  • Passing through the birth canal of a mother with a yeast infection

  • Use of antibiotics

  • Use of inhaled steroids, such as for asthma

  • Frequent use of a pacifier

  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms of thrush

Thrush causes creamy white patches to form on the tongue or inner cheeks. These patches can be painful and may bleed. Babies with thrush are often fussy and may have trouble feeding.

Treatment for thrush

A healthy baby with mild thrush may not need any treatment. More severe cases are likely to be treated with a liquid antifungal medicine. Or the medicine may be given as lozenges or pills. Follow the healthcare provider's instructions for giving this medicine to your child.

Breastfeeding mothers may develop thrush on their nipples. If you breastfeed, both you and your child will be treated. This is to prevent passing the infection back and forth.

Caring for your child at home

Make sure to do the following:

  • Wash your hands well with warm water and soap before and after caring for your child. Have your child wash his or her hands often.

  • If your child uses a pacifier, boil it for 5 to 10 minutes at least once a day.

  • Wash drinking cups well using warm water and soap after each use.

  • If your child takes inhaled corticosteroids, have your child rinse his or her mouth after taking the medicine. Also ask the child's healthcare provider about using a spacer. This can help lessen the risk for thrush.

Your child can likely go to school or daycare, unless the healthcare provider says otherwise.

When to call the healthcare provider

Call the healthcare provider right away if:

  • Your child is 3 months old or younger and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher. Get medical care right away. Fever in a young baby can be a sign of a dangerous infection.

  • Your child is younger than 2 years of age and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that continues for more than 1 day.

  • Your child is 2 years old or older and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) that continues for more than 3 days.

  • Your child is of any age and has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C).

Also call the healthcare provider if your child:

  • Stops eating or drinking

  • Has pain that doesn’t go away, or gets worse

  • Has other symptoms that get worse

  • Has repeated thrush infections