Oral Thrush Not Just for Babies Anymore

I have friend who has battled oral thrush repeatedly over the years. She says it’s because she’s addicted to smooching her grandbabies. However, I wondered how much of a role that plays, as I know my friend has no intention of cutting back on kissing her grandkids.

Oral thrush (candida is the clinical term for this fungus) is a type of yeast infection, and it’s unmistakable. Candida normally occurs in our bodies, but in this case it gets out of control. It presents as white, cottage cheese-like lesions on your inner cheeks, tongue and even on the roof of  your mouth and gums. They can be painful and leave you with a cottony feeling in your mouth, along with a loss of taste. Some of the lesions may bleed if scraped, and they can even spread down your throat. It’s is a fairly common problem in breastfeeding infants (with their developing immune systems), who, not surprisingly, become irritable and fussy if they have thrush. Nursing women dealing with a candida infection would have red, painful, sensitive nipples, and sometimes feel a stabbing pain deep within the breast.

It’s easier to develop thrush if your immune system is compromised due to a bad cold or other infection, or if you’re using antibiotics or corticosteroids. That’s why if you have to use antibiotics — which kill bad bacteria — it’s a good idea to add some good bacteria (e.g. lactobacillius acidophilus) to your diet in the form of supplements or yogurt (milk or soy-based).  You are more susceptible to thrush if you have HIV, cancer, diabetes or vaginal yeast infections. Other risk factors for thrush include wearing dentures, any condition that causes dry mouth, and smoking.

Luckily, this is not usually a serious ailment. For healthy individuals, your health care provider will probably advise adding unsweetened yogurt or acidophilus supplements to your diet. This won’t destroy the candida fungus, but will help restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in your body. If this fails, then antifungal medication is the next step.

Antifungal tablets and ointments are the typical course of treatment for nursing babies and mothers. Additionally, it’s important to wash anything your child puts in his mouth, such as a pacifier, or bottle in a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar; allow them to air dry. Don’t forget to also use this solution on a breast pump if you’re using one.

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